“We like electronic engine parameters, but drivers find ways to override them.”
Vice President of Maintenance
Electronic engine parameters can be set to limit the amount of main engine idling. These can include controls that cause idle shutdown after three to five minutes, or based on ambient air temperature.
Electronic engines allow fleets to set parameters in a wide variety of areas. These parameters can control the exact speed for idling the engine, set the idle timer length and establish the boundaries of when idling is allowed in both hot and cold temperatures. Parameter names vary by engine maker. Typical fleet temperature limits were 75°F as an upper limit and between -10°F and 25°F on the lower limit.
Electronic engines are standard equipment and come with no additional cost
Parameters can be adjusted to fleet’s specific needs
Electronic engine idle parameters can complement other idle-reduction technologies
Parameters can be modified by unauthorized personnel, and therefore not reliably set at the optimal parameters
Some fleets are pursuing idle-reduction strategies that allow them to make only a minimal investment in technology coupled with a larger investment in driver engagement. This strategy is based on using a fuel-operated air heater for cold support and employing electronic engine idle parameters such as ambient air shutdown, and then training drivers and providing them incentives to engage in behavior that limits idling. All four of these technologies must be used in concert to be an effective idle-reduction strategy.
Executives from 11 for-hire truckload carriers were personally interviewed to find out about their idle-reduction practices. No single technology was used by all 11 of the fleets, but eight indicated they use electronic engine parameters as part of their idle-reduction strategy. One interesting note: some fleets did not know how the vehicle controlled idle shut down, which could mean they do not consider electronic engine parameters as part of idle reduction. Some wondered why the study team was asking about electronic engine parameters in its discussion of idle reduction.
Internet Fleet Survey
In conjunction with Michelin, the study team surveyed 200+ members of Michelin’s Fleet Forum. When asked what idle reduction technology they would purchase, 33.3% said electronic engine parameters.
Internet Owner-Operator Survey
In conjunction with Kevin Rutherford’s “Let’s Talk” truckers’ satellite radio forum, the study team surveyed owner-operators and small fleets. Electronic engine controls ranked low on the list of technologies these survey respondents would include in a new truck specification, this could be based on lack of awareness that there are engine parameter settings available to allow idle to be controlled.
There are already a wide variety of payback calculators for any given type of idle-reduction system. In an effort to meet the industry’s need for more information, we have also developed a high-level payback equation to aid fleets in choosing the right combination of technologies.
Every engine manufacturer offers electronic engine idle parameters. In fact, the programmable features are now standard on every new vehicle manufactured. However, fleet managers must ensure parameters are set to reduce idling.
Electronic engine idle parameters are part of every truck manufactured and so do not add cost to the fleet. The key is for fleet managers to set parameters based on their operating conditions so that drivers can be comfortable. When coupled with a fuel-operated air heater and supported by driver training and incentives, this is a cost-efficient solution that also meets drivers’ needs.