Thursday, February 07, 2008

Bill to cut emissions no idle measure

Portland Press Herald

It would penalize truckers who don't turn off their engines when parked, to save gas and gasses.

Rep. Jon Hinck
February 7, 2008

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rep. Jon Hinck, D-Portand, is a member of the Utilities and Energy Committee.

— Mary Ann Cupero of Abbot drives a Peterbilt 379 truck, a rig sometimes called "a legendary symbol of trucking."

She also runs a truck-driving school. It's on the Internet at alternateroutedrivingschool.com.

Cupero may seem like an unlikely ally for a state representative from Portland.

But she recently called me about L.D. 2056, a bill I introduced this session to reduce truck idling in Maine.

Cupero supports it. "Idling is such an incredible waste in money for fuel and wear and tear on the engine," she said.

While Cupero has seen some drivers changing old habits due to high gas prices, she is surprised at how much needless idling continues.

Research bears out Cupero's observations. The Argonne National Laboratory, an energy research center, estimates that nationally trucks idle an average of more than 1,500 hours per year. The total fuel use by idling trucks is estimated to be more than 2 billion gallons per year.

Contrary to a popular misconception, more than 10 seconds of idling uses more fuel than restarting the engine.

In other words, if you stop for 10 seconds or more, it is best to turn the engine off. You will save money.

In addition, idling reduces the life of the vehicle. Since an idling engine is not operating at optimal temperature, incomplete fuel combustion allows fuel residue and water to condense on engine parts.

Chances are that drivers who do not shut off their engines when gas prices are taking a bite out of their bottom lines will not soon do it on their own.

My bill would set a limit of five minutes of idling for commercial vehicles, except when qualifying for one of a number of important exemptions. The exemptions insure that the idling restriction will not impact job performance.

This is not uncharted territory. Anti-idling regulations of some form have been adopted in more than 20 states.

Our New England neighbors, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut, all have statewide idling reduction rules.

Unfortunately, the rules differ from location to location. My bill is based on a model law developed in consultation with truckers and other stakeholders and is designed to achieve the benefits of reduced idling without creating unworkable and unduly burdensome regulations.

Abbot trucker Cupero decided to support the bill after making sure that it had adequate exemptions for trucker safety and comfort during cold Maine winter weather.

The Maine Truckers Association testified in favor of the bill, as did witnesses as diverse as the Maine Lung Association, Central Maine Power, the Sierra Club and Rite Aid.

The message from those who testified is that it is time to conserve our dwindling reserves of petroleum-based fuels and cut back on harmful impacts.

This is a money-saving way of avoiding greenhouse gases that cause dangerous global warming.

Idling reduction also improves air quality and reduces health impacts from exposure to exhaust that contributes to such ills as asthma and heart disease.

For better or worse, L.D. 2056, which looks likely to pass, does not address idling by private passenger vehicles.

So if we are going to make progress there, it remains up to us. Under the slogan "Idling Stinks," some communities have made progress getting people to turn off their cars when not driving.

If you agree with any of the reasons to stop needless idling, please support the bill in the Legislature and give your ignition switch a turn.

— Special to the Press Herald

Copyright © 2008 Blethen Maine Newspapers

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