News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Business should pay attention to idling

A Sisters contractor just completed some work for my house and we were talking about the benefits of electric cars and the real cost of gasoline. I was shocked when he told me that his workforce used 25 percent of the companies fuel up just idling the work trucks unnecessarily. He hopes to eliminate this behavior because it’s an avoidable expense. He had devices installed in his trucks to monitor fuel usage.

Idling is not as inexpensive as you think because the cost of gasoline is not what you see on the pump.

There are a lot of hidden costs.

Oil subsidies are one of these costs.

Total US subsidies for coal, oil and gas are $650 billion annually, more than the defense budget according to an IMF study.

At least 50 percent of this is oil subsidies, tax-breaks and other oil-related programs and bureaus, or $325 billion.

$27 billion is the monies going directly to oil companies as subsidies for oil production and exploration.

A conservative amount that is related to oil production is $100 billion.

Another big cost is the military defense for middle-east oil interests.

This is estimated to be $81 billion/year or about 16 percent of DOD base budgets.

This amounts to about 28 cents per gallon to defend these foreign oil interests, even though the U.S. is now mostly oil independent.

A smaller cost is the subsidy for corn-ethanol farming and production.

Ethanol costs drivers in the U.S. $10 billion every year in higher gasoline prices for lower-quality gasoline.

Subsidies and tax-breaks for the top ten corn producers combined with other programs, like the farm bill amount to about $450 million annually. If you add up all of the hidden costs of gasoline, these come to about $181.5 billion annually. We have about 230 million drivers in the U.S. Therefore, the added cost for gasoline for each driver is about $790 annually or $66/month. The average gas expense per driver per month is $250, so the actual cost is $316/month. This is a 26 percent increase. This increases the average gas price in October 2019 from $2.99/gallon to $3.78/gallon. This is what you are actually paying, not what is on the pump.

There is no good reason to idle a truck under normal circumstances. For diesels, maximum of three minutes of warm-up is recommended by the manufacturers. More causes engine wear. I guess if it’s not your fuel, you don’t care if you waste it. The downside is that it creates less profit for the company you work for and maybe makes them less competitive when bidding for jobs. This can affect your job prospects.

If you are sitting in an idling diesel truck, you are probably breathing some carcinogenic fumes. You may develop lung cancer, even if you don’t smoke.

I have watched as the Salvation Army delivery truck sits for hours in the Target parking lot, idling while the attendant sits on the back lift. I have watched as CEC trucks parked next to job sites idle with the windows open and no passengers for hours unattended. Besides being against the law to idle a heavy truck for more than five minutes in a two-hour period (ORS 825.605), it’s bad for the environment and increases everyone’s living expenses.

UPS is a good example of a company doing the right thing for the planet and the smart thing for their business. Even though their delivery trucks stop a hundred times each day, they turn off the engine and restart at each delivery location. Their starters don’t wear out and their trucks last just as long, maybe longer. If only FEDEX would do the same. If only all truck drivers in Central Oregon would do the same.


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