New county policy sets fleet idling standard
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Garfield County workers who are using county vehicles and plan to linger in one spot for more than 30 seconds are now being asked to turn off their engines.
The 30-second rule is the standard in a new county vehicle idling policy adopted by the county commissioners recently.
The policy grew out of Garfield County Public Health’s involvement in the larger “Engines Off Colorado” project. The statewide effort is aimed at raising awareness about the health risks and fuel waste associated with vehicle engines being allowed to idle for long periods of time.
Operators of vehicle fleets, such as local governments, industry and school districts that have bus systems, have been encouraged to establish idling policies as part of that broader effort.
“We want to serve as a role model to other government and industry fleets in the area,” Garfield County Commission Chairman John Martin said in a recent county press release announcing the new policy.
The county policy is just part of a larger effort to reduce all types of vehicle idling, said Morgan Hill, environmental health specialist for Garfield County Public Health (GCPH).
“We are making the push for reduced idling, because vehicle exhaust is linked to a number of poor health outcomes including asthma, lung damage and cancer,” Hill said.
The county is also placing reflective signs in parking lots at all county buildings suggesting that motorists turn their engines off when they aren’t moving.
“If drivers take the simple step of turning engines off when parked, we can reduce vehicle emissions greatly,” Hill said.
She pointed to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency statistics indicating that motor vehicles are responsible for nearly half of smog-forming volatile organic compounds, more than half of the nitrogen oxide emissions, and about half of the toxic air pollutant emissions in the United States.
Other statistics cited as part of the Engines Off Colorado campaign include:
• Vehicles account for 75 percent of carbon monoxide emissions nationwide.
• Idling for just one minute produces as much carbon monoxide as smoking three packs of cigarettes.
• Motorists waste 5-10 percent of their fuel every year just sitting and idling.
• In Colorado, vehicle idling is responsible for approximately 80,000 pounds of regulated air pollutants.
Schools, in particular, often have high levels of prolonged vehicle idling as parents wait to pick up students when school lets out.
Three Garfield County schools — Glenwood Springs Elementary, Kathryn Senor Elementary in New Castle and LW St. John Elementary in Battlement Mesa — participated in the Clean Air At Schools campaign during the spring of 2012.
Among other efforts, signs were posted at the school urging people to turn off their engines, brochures were handed out and parents signed pledges not to let their vehicles idle. Students were also engaged in the project by observing and record idling vehicles outside their schools before and after the campaign.
As a result, the three schools saw anywhere from a 64 percent to 95 percent reduction in the duration (measured in minutes) of vehicle idling during the afternoon student pick-up time.
According to Garfield County Public Health, additional things for motorists to keep in mind to save fuel and reduce emissions include:
• Remembering that idling burns more fuel than turning an engine off and restarting it, and that the best way to warm a car or pickup truck is to drive it.
• Filling up gas tanks in the morning or after 6 p.m. to avoid the heat of the day.
• Taking care not to spill fuel and avoid topping off tanks.
• Keeping engines tuned and tires properly inflated.
• Trying not to carry around extra weight in the car.
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Former Carbondale trustee Katrina Byars said she wants to bring a voice of environmental sustainability to the commission, and believes her opponent has served long enough.