By limiting the amount of idling done by buses and other vehicles, there is a reduction in the amount of air pollution that is emitted, reduced health impacts, and it also saves money. School buses typically burn up to half a gallon of diesel fuel for each hour that idle. If a school district operates 100 buses, and each bus reduced idling by only 30 minutes per day, at $3 per gallon of diesel fuel, the district would save $13,500. In addition to saving money by using less fuel, savings are also made in health care. With less air pollution in the school environment, children may be less likely to suffer from air pollution-based health complaints, such as asthma.
What can your school/district do?
- Start a voluntary Idle-Free Campaign by requesting materials such as "Idle-Free Zone" signs and Be Idle Free brochures from the Southwest Ohio Air Quality Agency.
- Work with bus companies and drivers, so that they are involved with, and understand, the need for reducing idling.
- In the winter, provide a space inside the school where bus drivers who arrive early can wait.
- Write to state representatives and have students contribute with letters and pictures.
- Assess the bus waiting zone to see if the buses can be rearranged. School buses are typically aligned nose-to-tail. If the buses idle, the exhaust fumes from one bus are directed into the buses behind, especially as the tailpipe vents close to the door for the bus behind (See diagrams below). By parking the buses at an angle, the exhaust fumes are not emitted at the front of the bus behind, or beside the open bus doorway. The front of the bus should point towards the school building, so that students do not have to walk through any exhaust fumes if the driver does not turn off their engine.
Typical Bus Parking Style
Alternative Parking Style
Ideas for an Idle-Free Campaign
- Have students design handouts for parents and bus drivers.
- Have students survey traffic in the school parking lot, including buses, delivery trucks, and parents picking up their children.
- Have students develop a recognition program for bus drivers that do not idle their vehicles.
- Involve the PTA/PTO.
- Ask school bus drivers to turn off their engines as soon as possible when they arrive at loading or unloading areas to drop off or pick up passengers. They should turn off their buses as soon as possible. The school bus should not be restarted until it is ready to depart.
- If buses need the engine to run the flashing lights, consider changing the circuit configurations so that the flashing lights can be powered by the battery without the engine running.
- At school bus depots, limit the idling time during early morning warm-up to what is recommended by the manufacturer (generally 3 to 5 minutes). In colder climates, block heaters, which plug into electrical outlets, can help warm the engine to avoid starting difficulties and shorten warm-up time.
- Research low idling laws and guidelines. The Ohio Department of Health has compiled a guidance document and fact sheets for the School Environmental Health and Safety Program.