Idling Costs:
How to Calculate the Need
for Idling Alternatives

What does a trucker do to stay comfortable? Once idling costs are calculated, you'll immediately see the need for an alternative for climate control and electrification.

For OTR drivers, their trucks are not just their workplaces but also their homes. In our opinion, they need the same consideration for creature comforts as you would expect in your home and trucking company employees would expect in their workplace.

The cost of providing climate control and electricity in the workplace is often considered the "cost of doing business." So, why are some drivers shut out of consideration when it comes to this?

We understand that no matter which method of providing creature comforts to drivers is chosen, there will be a cost. Even if "no" method is chosen at all, there will be a cost to a driver's health and well being.

On this page, we will address both idling costs and the costs of not idling when no alternatives are available.

Calculating Idling Costs

There are both direct and indirect truck idle costs:

  • Cost of diesel (direct cost);
  • Wear and tear on engine (indirect cost); and
  • The possibility of receiving tickets, fines or penalties for idling in a no-idle zone without proper exemption.

According to a May 9, 2001 article from MarketWatch, "fuel is expense number one, surpassing even employee costs as the price of diesel continues to build."

If a driver has no idling alternatives in his/her truck, the theoretical idling time just to stay comfortable during his/her 10-hour sleep break could be as high as

  • 10 hours / 24 hours = 41.67%.

If other errands are done during that time, a driver's actual in-truck comfort needs may be reduced by an hour or two.

  • 9 hours / 24 hours = 37.5%
  • 8 hours / 24 hours = 33.3%

For tractors that are idled more often:

  • How much more (in frequency and/or expense to do servicings) will it cost to do maintenance?
  • What correlation does idling have on wearing out an engine?

Using the calculator linked on this page of Argonne National Laboratory's website, you can easily calculate the cost of idling.

You will find on that page two links to "Savings Calculator for Heavy-Duty Vehicles" in the right hand column (one in Excel format, one in PDF format). The question that is asked at the top of the Excel spreadsheet is "How Much Could You Save by Idling Less?" Fill in the blanks with figures of your choice.

A number of publications listed under their Reducing Vehicle Idling section address large trucks.

Although the graph on this page of their site compares the idling fuel consumption of vehicles with 1 litre, 3 litre and 5 litre engines, it does show consumption over time. If it is this way for 4-wheel vehicles, it must be even worse for vehicles with larger engines (like heavy duty trucks).

Another resource,, produced a video on the cost of idling in traffic.

Can You Calculate the Cost of Not Idling When Other Options Are Not Available?

What are the costs of not idling for drivers who don't have alternative climate control and electrification systems in their trucks?

  • Potential for inability to keep perishable foods that are not kept on ice from eventually spoiling in warm or hot temperatures;
  • Potential for inability to cook meals using electrically-powered appliances (which could translate into fewer hours available to run because they are having to eat restaurant meals);
  • Potential for inability to sleep well (which could translate into impaired mental clarity and result in a higher incidence of accidents); and
  • Potential for heat related stress or illness.

We think that you would agree with us that the adverse health effects that can come about by requiring someone to stay in a hot truck are just not worth it.

truck drivers money saving tip icon

Money saving tip: Drivers can aim to keep idling costs while parked as low as possible. However, if they have no idling alternatives in their trucks, their options are few. We provide an empowerment idea and ideas comprising a proposition.

To keep from having to idle to recharge battery-operated climate control devices, we think that diesel-powered APUs are the best choice for providing climate control and electrification.

Although the initial cost of an APU is high, the payback in terms of the cost of diesel burned during idling (just the fuel part of idling costs) is only about a year.

Return from Idling Costs: How to Calculate the Need for Idling Alternatives to our Truck Operations page or our Truck Drivers Money Saving Tips home page.

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