Friday, January 18, 2008

Truckers may back bill to limit idling time

State House: The measure would hold diesel trucks and some gas trucks to five minutes per hour.

By PAUL CARRIER Staff Writer
January 18, 2008

AUGUSTA -- A trade group for the trucking industry may
join environmentalists in backing a bill to limit idling by
commercial trucks and buses, as supporters try to make Maine
the 14th state to penalize drivers who leave their engines
running while they are parked.

The bill "is something we very well may support as long as it
stays in its current format," said Dale Hannington of the Maine
Motor Transport Association.

That would align truckers with the Natural Resources Council of
Maine, which backs Rep. Jon Hinck's effort to restrict idling of
non-passenger vehicles.

The bill filed by Hinck, a Portland Democrat, essentially would
limit idling to five minutes per hour for diesel-powered
commercial trucks and some vehicles that run on gasoline.
"Private passenger vehicles," such as cars, pickup trucks and
minivans, would not be covered.

The bill says companies that are served by diesel trucks "may
not cause a vehicle to idle for a period longer than 30 minutes
while waiting to load or unload at that location."

Environmentalists and the American Lung Association of Maine
see the bill as a way to reduce pollution and save energy.
Hannington said his association is inclined to support it because
it includes exemptions that should make it work for truckers.

The bill would allow an occupied commercial truck to idle for
longer than five minutes to heat or cool while the driver waits to
load or unload. It also includes exemptions for certain
circumstances, such as traffic jams, when an engine must run to
operate mixing or other equipment, or when a driver cools or
heats a sleeper berth in a truck.

Buses could be idled for as long as 15 minutes per hour to
"maintain passenger comfort while non-driver passengers are on
board," the bill says. Emergency vehicles could run as long as
necessary "while in an emergency or training mode," but not
simply for the convenience of the driver.

"I don't believe in government protecting people against
themselves," Hinck said, but in this case, the government has a
legitimate role to play because reducing engine idling is "good
for all of us."

Hinck said the limits would help to protect public health in a
state with high asthma rates, reduce greenhouse gases, and
conserve fuel in an era of high prices and heavy reliance on
foreign suppliers.

He said some people probably would prefer that the limits apply
to passenger cars and trucks as well, but "we may not have
reached the point" where an all-inclusive law would get public

At least one Maine community, Bar Harbor, already has an
ordinance to restrict idling. Some municipalities, including
Portland, as well as various school districts, have idling policies
for their fleets. Oakhurst Dairy's trucks are programmed to shut
off after idling for five minutes, according to the fleet manager,
David Green.

The state Department of Transportation installed signs at ferry
terminals last year encouraging drivers to shut off their engines.
Similar signs are being installed at park-and-ride facilities
operated by the Department of Transportation and the Maine
Turnpike Authority. Portland has signs outside Merrill
Auditorium and the Portland Expo asking motorists not to idle
their vehicles.

Unlike those efforts, the restrictions under review by the
Legislature would be mandatory, and would apply statewide.

A driver would get a warning for the first violation of the five-
minute rule, followed by $150 fines for subsequent violations. A
business would get a warning for the first violation of the 30-
minute rule, followed by $500 fines for subsequent offenses.

Two leading business groups, the Maine State Chamber of
Commerce and the Portland Regional Chamber, have taken no
position on the bill. Neither has the Maine Chiefs of Police
Association, although the executive director of that group said
he has personal reservations.

"It would be difficult to enforce" such a law because police have
plenty to do and it is impractical for them to time idling vehicles,
said Robert Schwartz, executive director of the police chiefs'

Dana Reed, the town manager in Bar Harbor, said he may
propose that the town replace its five-minute limit with a flat
prohibition because it is impractical for police officers to time
idling vehicles.

Hinck said his bill, which is based on model legislation drafted
by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, uses a five-minute
limit because some vehicles may need to be warmed up that

Thirteen states have laws banning or limiting idling, according
to the American Transportation Research Institute, including
Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.
Dozens of municipalities and counties across the country have
local or regional laws.

The Legislature's Natural Resources Committee will hold a
hearing on the bill at 1 p.m. Tuesday in Room 214 of the Cross
State Office Building in Augusta.

Staff Writer Paul Carrier can be contacted at 622-7511 or at:

Copyright © 2008 Blethen Maine Newspapers

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