City Government

Idle Thoughts On City Vehicles

About a year ago the GUARDIAN caused a stir among coppers when we noted patrol cars left idling for long periods of time at convenience stores and even at dinner for an hour at a time.

Comments on the post, POLICE PROWLERS GUZZLE GAS prompted a flurry of defenses for the idle arguments.

Fewer Idle Cop Cars

Fewer Idle Cop Cars

Top Cop Mike Masterson was not happy to hear cars were parked and left running with the doors locked–all it takes is a whack on the window for access to guns, computers, radios, and the car itself.

Fast forward a year later and the city has hired a “Fleet Services Manager” in the person of Craig Croner whose job it is to save gas, negotiate vehicle purchases, and keep every car and truck in the city running safely.

Croner assembled a committee of “users” from all the city departments and came up with a proposed energy and fuel policy with regard to idling vehicles. He says the “break even point” is a mere 30 seconds. Longer than that and it is better to turn off the engine. It seems like a rational policy to us.

Take a look for yourself.

Anti Idling Policy:

Vehicle idling gets zero miles per gallon; unnecessary idling wastes fuel and pollutes. Running an engine at low speed (idling) also causes additional wear on internal parts compared to driving at regular speeds. The break-even point for shutting off and restarting gasoline engines or leaving it to idle is 30 seconds – from the point of view of both emissions and fuel consumption. This restriction does not apply to congested traffic, city driving or traffic controls.

Air quality is a critical issue in our area. One of the leading sources of air pollutants of concern is from vehicle tailpipe exhaust. The City of Boise needs to be a leader in reducing sources of these air pollutants. Additionally, the rising cost of fuel makes it imperative that the City of Boise focus on fuel efficiency and cease vehicle idling when not warranted by the situation.

Effective immediately, unless exempted in the following section, no City vehicle or piece of equipment is to be idled in a non-emergency situation. The operator of the vehicle/equipment is to turn-off the unit and the keys are to be removed from the ignition.

The following situations will allow idling, as needed:
A. Emergency vehicles at scenes where lights, Power Take Offs, and/or other accessories are needed to accomplish the mission;
B. Police vehicles working traffic enforcement details;
C. Department of Public Works, Department of Parks and Recreation and Boise Airport vehicles at job sites requiring the use of emergency lights, Power Take Offs, and/or other accessories to accomplish their assignment. Planning and Development, PDS Inspector – 2005 or older and non-hybrid vehicles only, while performing inspections.
D. Inclement weather situations and the supervisor authorizes the use of the vehicle/equipment heater-defroster for the work crew’s comfort according to the guidelines listed below;

1. If the outside temperature is: Above 32 degrees F: 5 minute maximum
2. Between -10 and 32 degrees F; 15 minute maximum
3. Below -10 degrees F: as necessary

NOTE: Operators of vehicle/equipment and supervisors will be judicious in the idling of units at emergency scenes and job sites. If not all the units at the scene/site need to be idling, those units must be turned-off and the keys removed from the ignition. Each vehicle/equipment operator will be responsible for the idling operation of their unit and will have the unit keys in their possession to ensure that crewmembers do not arbitrarily violate the policy without the operator’s knowledge.

Supervisors in each department/division will be responsible for the adherence and enforcement of the idling policy. Violations of the policy will be documented as to the vehicle/equipment operator, vehicle class code, location, date and time, weather conditions, and circumstances of the violation.

The vehicle/equipment operator will be informed of the violation by the supervisor at the time of the infraction.

Department Heads will be responsible to ensure this standard of conduct in the use of City vehicles and equipment. Employees have the responsibility to abide by this regulation, violation of which can subject them to progressive disciplinary action.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Boise Whiskey Tango
    Jul 24, 2008, 11:08 am

    And with all the money saved on fuel and wear-and-tear, they’ll finally be able to “afford” to purchase and install video cameras for the protection of Officers and Citizens alike!

    Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha…
    I crack myself up sometimes!
    Seriously though – It’s a good thing.

  2. Wow, the Cops needed to hire a dude to figger that out? Must be a bunch of Boise City intellectuals working over there.
    Does this blow argument of the pro idling cop car ragers we read on this blog? Oh, I forgot they approve anything a cop does.

  3. Poor police dogs, won’t they cook when the officer has to go inside to take care of business. I guess the dog will have to go inside the restaurant with the copper to eat. Should be a real crowd pleaser.

  4. Smart to push a policy like this. Makes me think about doing less idling myself.

  5. Now we just need the city to figure out what to do with non-police vehicles that sit idle for 16 hours a day. Check out

    From the website

    “In April 2004, the City of Philadelphia itself opted in, becoming the first government worldwide to share cars with local residents in a major fleet reduction effort. The pioneering project helped replace 330 municipal vehicles, saving taxpayers $6 million (so far). Progressive Berkeley (CA), Portland (OR), and Minneapolis (MN) soon followed Philadelphia’s lead.”

  6. I would bet a year from now we will not see even a 1% drop in fuel used. Too many exceptions, all subjective. The powers that be will enforce it for a few weeks or months and then gradually ignore it.

  7. Zero miles per gallon: Well, of course. It gets that even if the engine is off. Maybe gallons per hour or something like that would be more meaningful?

    Thieves can break in: They can also do that when the engine is off, no?

    EDITOR NOTE–Too much caffeine Razzbar. When the engine is running that means the KEY is in the ignition and they can just drive off with the loot, car and all.

  8. PD cars used to be equiped with lock out devices that would allow the car to idle with out the keysa in it, but when someone took it out of park with out the key (as in to steal it) , the vehicle shut down.

  9. @Clancy: Cool, but discussion is on engine idling, not car share. Actually, if people were stealing these idling vehicles, it would be kind of like car share…

    @Razzbar: 0/0 != 0/N where N>0, but yes, it’s a silly statement. I would have liked to see a rule closer to the pocketbook, like “15 minutes unnecessary idling costs $2 in gas (this week), and we’ll be taking it out of your paycheck.”

  10. Great policy, lets just hope BPD can do their part and follow it, they usually think the law doesn’t apply to them, so we’ll see…

  11. Isn’t it illegal to leave a car with the engine running?

    EDITOR NOTE–Yes. They call the violation “unattended motor vehicle.”

  12. My brother in law made a good point. Would the mayor, or anyone else, be willing to turn off the a/c in their office every time they stepped out for 5 minutes if they knew it would be 150 degrees in there when they got back? How about if every time they left their office they had to stand out in the hot sun dressed in black from head to toe wearing 25 lbs of equipment and a vest that breathes like a garbage bag? There isn’t a business out there that couldn’t save money by turning their thermostat up to 90 during the summer to save on their electric bill but how many people are willing to do that?

  13. You know, I think jstew makes a pretty good point. We are all looking at protecting the environment, and saving money…so why not take it one step further? How many people are reading this from a home or office that is air conditioned? How about when officers are doing surveillance, or finishing up paperwork in the cars? That is an ‘idling’ vehicle. It isn’t practical to make someone work in a 110 degree car (if the windows are down, and a breeze is blowing). Seems to me that it would be fair to make this policy go all the way around, not just focus on city vehicles (cops).

  14. If private enterprise wants to run their AC all day at 60 degrees, I’m all for it. But when I’m signing the check to BPD (or any government agency) they should conserve every penny at every inconvenience.

  15. Sam the sham
    Jul 30, 2008, 8:01 am

    while walking along Edson Street and close to the park by South Jr High, I noticed two things which may be of interest to you… one was a Boise Parks Dept. van which was pulled over and parked – yet running – with the driver inside, reading. The other was a group of vest clad men doing their community service, trimming a very tall hedge. I asked the woman officer if that was city property since it was in front of the A frame home… she said that it was because of a ditch that ran between the property and the street. So I joyfully said – oh then I can walk my dog there! “no, no, it’s not very wide and it’s private property on the other side” Oh, so you will just trim up the street side of this hedge. “no, no, we will trim both sides because of the canal”
    Well, there are a lot of small covered ditches on the bench, as well as open ones and I have never seen the city trimming bushes on any of them. But then a (PROMINENT NAME) does live on Edson Street, so that may be the reason for the special interest the city has there.

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