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Is Idling Costing Your Business Money?

Author: Dominic Loong, Senior Technical Services Engineer, Kyle Dodsworth, Learning Center Trainer

When vehicles in your fleet are idling, it may be costing your business money. Many Geotab customers are shocked to find out how much time their fleet spends idling during the day, and once they convert that time to fuel burned, the idling cost can really pile up.

What Is the Cost of Idling?

An idling vehicle could be burning one fifth to 1 gallon of fuel per hour, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. If your fleet is a Medium-Duty or higher diesel fleet, you are likely burning half a gallon of diesel per hour (or more). Even 1 hour of idling per week could cost your business $65 per truck per year, assuming an average price of $2.50/g (AAA).

Aside from the costs, idling impacts vehicle health. Idling vehicles put extra load and engine hours on your fleet when they could simply be turned off instead. This can increase the number of oil changes and amount of maintenance required on your vehicles which increases fleet costs without providing a return.

Save Money, Save the Environment

In the U.S., the transportation sector is responsible for a staggering 30% of the total annual energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Reducing idling in your fleet can also make a positive impact on the environment, by reducing the amount of excess CO2 and exhaust particulates that are added to the atmosphere. Burning a gallon of diesel fuel created about 22 lbs of CO2 that is added to the environment. Curbing 1 hour of idling per week could save over 500 lbs of CO2 per year per truck.

Using Telematics for Idling Detection

Your Geotab GO device automatically tracks idling within every trip, without any setup required. Right out of the box you will have insight into your fleet’s overall productivity and within a few clicks you can determine your fleet’s overall idling metrics.

Viewing Idling

You can view idling via your Trips history, in the idling column. You can also visualize the productivity and idling of the fleet by clicking the Summary button at the top of the screen.

The Idling column in Trips history show time spent idling.

Clicking Summary will show you a visual of driving time vs. idling time.

How Geotab Calculates Idle Time

When calculating idle time, the most important point to understand is how a trip is defined.

A trip begins when the vehicle starts moving and ends when the vehicle starts moving again after a stop. A stop is recorded when the vehicle ignition is turned off, or when the vehicle has a speed of less than 1 km/h for more than 200 seconds.

Any idling, defined as speed less than 1 km/h with ignition on, is associated to a trip after a stop has occurred. Let’s look at some examples.

Example 1: Idling — Before and After Driving

In this example, let’s assume time A and D are times spent idling. Therefore,

Previous trip idle time = A

Current trip = B + C + D

Current trip idle time = D

Example 2: Idling in One Trip

In this example, let’s assume time B and D are times spent idling. Therefore,

Current trip = A + B + C + D

Current trip idle time = B + D

Example 3: Idling During Two Trips

In the example above, A+B is the first trip, and C+D is the second trip. The idle times are B and D where B is attributed to the first trip, and D is attributed to the second trip. Please note that the 200 second idle time that trigger the stops will be included in the total idling time. More specifically, if a vehicle creates a stop idling by 201 seconds, then MyGeotab will attribute 201 seconds to the idling time of the trip.

Example 4: Device Unplugged

If there is a gap in GPS data for more than 200 seconds (usually caused by the device being unplugged while idling), the software does not record idle time during this period, as there is no way to confirm the vehicle was idling during that time.

In this example, let’s assume time B, C and D are times spent idling. Therefore,

Current trip = A + B + C + D

Current trip idle time = B + D (C does not count towards idling, because the device was unplugged)

How to Curb Idling and Reduce Your Idling Cost

Many fleets utilizing Geotab can reduce their idling by over 50%. While each fleet is different, an idling rate of less than 10% of the work day is usually a good target.

Once you know where your drivers are idling, you can use features within MyGeotab to help coach your drivers to reduce idling.

Rules and Driver Feedback: You can enable the Geotab GO to beep if the vehicle is idling over a certain amount of time:

You can also enable standard rules that can then be reported as idling exceptions to populate idling reports or graphs on your dashboard:

Standard Idling: Similar to the driver feedback above, but instead of a driver alert, this rule will log as an exception in the system (recall that driver feedback does not log in the system).

Fleet Idling: This rule is similar to the standard Idling rule, but instead adds a location parameter that restricts where the idle rule is tested

You can set this rule to flag idling in office zones only, or ‘everywhere’

Remember, you can also create custom rules based on these standard rules to suit your needs.

Reports: For even more insight to your fleet idling, be sure to check out these reports, available for free on our marketplace:

· Weekly Idle Cost

· 3 Month Idle Trend


Lowering your fleet idling can result in substantial yearly savings, cost avoidance, and is better for the environment. Idling will always present in your fleet, but with a few simple rules, you can start to reduce it’s impact on your business. How low can you go?

Request a demo today to learn more.

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