Many Vermont municipalities are onboard when it comes to reducing diesel-truck idling. Diesel trucks-from private heavy duty pickups to commercial big rigs-can be found, especially on cold winter days, idling at homes, in supermarket parking lots, at convenient stores, rest areas, and elsewhere around the state.
While most diesel-exhaust studies have focused on congested urban areas-not open rural areas-there remain serious medical concerns about the long-term health effects of exposure to fumes. The Clean Air Task Force has claimed that respiratory problems caused by diesel exhaust will cost Vermont $78 million in health-care costs.
Last spring, the American Lung Association in Vermont launched a program-titled Vermont Idle-Free Fleets-to raise awareness of claims relating to health effects and the economic and environmental impact of unnecessary diesel idling.
"Reducing discretionary diesel engine idling is a simple yet very effective means of reducing emissions and helping improve air quality and meet clean air goals," said Al Schaeffer, executive director of the Diesel Technology Forum. "Simply put, the best way to reduce emissions is to turn an engine off."
Yet, even Schaeffer has to admit that cleaner diesel engines have changed old perceptions about "dirty diesels".
"In just the past 10 years, new clean diesel fuel and engine technologies have reduced emissions of fine particles and nitrogen oxide diesel emissions by 98 percent, which is a monumental accomplishment. New technologies and cleaner fuel have made clean diesel a reality," said Schaeffer.
Regardless of cleaner-burning engines since 2000, the Diesel Technology Forum supports antiidling programs as being good for public relations. The forum has been working with several regional
and state programs to reduce idling time.
Other supporters of idle-free efforts nationwide include the American Trucking Associations, the the National Private Truck Council, the Truckload Carriers Association, the National Association of Truckstop Operators, and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, among others.
Here in Vermont, according Rebecca Ryan, director of health promotion and public policy of the American Lung Association in Williston, the idle-free effort provides fleet operators with a toolkit that explains the myths and realities associated with truck idling, the health effects of diesel exhaust, the cost savings achieved by an idling reduction policy, and sample model policies.
The program, funded by taxpayers via the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, includes technical support for businesses using trucks in Chittenden County and Rutland County, Ryan said.
The lung association has cited Rutland County has having the highest rate of emergency room visits due to asthma, but there is no definitive link between these E.R. cases and local diesel exhaust. Many sources, including woodburning stoves and fireplaces, contribute to asthma.
Meanwhile, the lung association in Vermont has been working with towns and companies with diesel fleets to adopt their own policies. To date, five towns-Williston, Milton, Shelburne, Winooski and Pittsford have adopted diesel policies, according to the lung association's Ryan. She said Mendon officials are also mulling a townwide idling policy
Ryan also noted that two businesses-Koffee Kup Bakery and Kaiser Energy-are onboard with idling policies. Marble Valley Transit in Rutland is also considering a policy, she said.
Brian Carpentier of Koffee Kup Bakery said, "In an effort to do our part in keeping Vermont green, Koffee Kup Bakery has adopted a policy to eliminate unnecessary vehicle idling. With the information provided to us from the American Lung Association, we are now more able to assist in improving the environment, while reducing both fuel cost and vehicle wear and tear. This was an easy decision for us."
"This policy offers many good things. It saves money, decreases our carbon footprint and air pollution," said Chris Keyser from Keyser Energy of Rutland.