Idling – running a vehicle’s engine while it is stationary – wastes an estimated 6 billion gallons of fuel each year in our country.    

“Excessive idling is bad for the environment. It also creates extra wear and tear on our vehicles,” said Fleet director Amy Joyce. “We can make a difference just by turning our Fleet vehicles off when they’re not in use.”  

A cross-functional team is helping to reduce idle time while vehicles are parked on DTE properties. 

“Using GPS data, we track idling events which occur when the engine is running but a vehicle is stationary at one of our facilities for more than 45 minutes,” Joyce said.       

Last year, we reduced on-property idling by about three percent, which saved $150,000 in fuel costs and enabled us to avoid putting 1.2 million of tons of carbon dioxide into the air –enough to offset the emissions of 115 passenger cars driven for a year. Our 2021 target represents a 10 percent reduction from 2020 levels.  

“Ultimately, we’re working toward a 50 percent reduction from 2019 levels by 2024,” Joyce said.  

The idling team includes representatives from across our company who share best practices and review data to reduce idling. While hot weather and the pandemic make idling reduction more challenging, DTE’s Fossil Generation team continues to make strides in reducing on-property idling events. In 2020, the team reduced in-yard idling events by nearly 73 percent over 2019 levels.   

What’s the secret to their success? According to Operating System Project Lead Theresa Singletary, who represents Fossil Generation on the idling reduction team, it all comes down to communication and leadership.   

There is someone at each Fossil Generation site responsible for idling reduction. These representatives receive weekly idling reports, and many get automatic text notifications when our GPS system senses a vehicle idling excessively at one of our sites.   

“The notifications and reports help us see when and where idling is occurring, so we can reach out and talk about what’s happening,” Singletary said. “Occasionally, the idling is a necessary part of our work. Usually, we’re able to develop countermeasures to bring those numbers down.”  

Leadership support is also very important.  

“While I drive this effort and work with the team to make sure we’re achieving our targets, leadership support is vital,” Singletary said. “The consistent reminders from leaders about the many benefits of idling reduction are a big part of our success.”  

Recently, we have also added idling reduction requirements to our policy that governs the operation, assignment and use of our fleet vehicles. Specifically, the policy says that vehicles should not idle for more than 15 minutes unless it’s necessary for work or to ensure employee safety.   

Moving forward, the team is investigating new methods for reducing idling even further.    

“We’ve made good progress by using low-cost fixes and communication to change habits, but there’s room for improvement, and we’re continuing to learn about idling reduction technology,” Joyce said. “Finding new ways to remind drivers to shut their vehicles off will help us reduce our fuel costs, wear and tear on our vehicles, and environmental impact even more.”