How often do you sit in your car with the engine running?

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Did you know that idling can have a negative effect on your health, the environment, and your fuel consumption? The Royal College of Physicians estimates that40,000 deaths a year in the UK are linked to air pollution and engine idling contributes significantly to this pollution. Keeping your engine running when sitting in heavy traffic, waiting to collect friends or family, or sitting outside school and work means that the fumes from your exhaust build up in congested areas. This in turn builds carbon dioxide, which leads to the negative effects of climate change. 

Leaving your engine running also increases your fuel consumption. An idling diesel lorry burns approximately one gallon of fuel an hour and, contrary to the myth, it is not more efficient to keep your engine running rather than starting and stopping. Idling for just 10 seconds wastes more fuel than restarting the engine. So, you can see that it makes sense to turn off your engine, but did you know that you also run the risk of getting fined for idling? 

The law on idling

Rule 123 of The Highway Code states that drivers must not leave the engine running unnecessarily while that vehicle is stationary on a public road. Currently, drivers can be fined up to £80  with some councils undertaking extra measures to cut road emissions. 

In 2019, York initiated an anti-idling policy to step up their campaign to reduce air pollution. They encouraged the community to get involved, asking local residents to film drivers idling and send in their footageWhilst some have accused the authorities of creating a big brother society, similar schemes have been run in New York with successful reductions in idling. 

By limiting the amount of time, we sit with the engine running, we can help to reduce pollution.  

Top tips to limit time spent idling 

  • If you’re going to be sitting in your car for more than 10 seconds, then turn off your engine. 

  • If you are sitting near a school, hospital, or heavily populated area then turn off your engine as these are the areas that are most likely to be policed with fines. 

  • By refusing to turn off your engine when asked you could end up with a fine so it’s better to simply do it. 

  • Don’t sit on your driveway waiting for your car to warm up in winter as driving your car is a more efficient way to heat the car. However, please ensure that your screen has been cleared first. 

  • If you’re collecting someone then we recommend that you call ahead and ask them to be waiting outside for you. This reduces the amount of time that you’re waiting with your engine on. 

  • An even better way to reduce the impact of idling is to leave the car at home and walk, when possible. 

  • Consider a telematics system or driving course to help make you more aware of your driving habits and help you to reduce idling. 

Alternatively, you could invest in an electric vehicle as idling would then have a minimal impact on the environment. As the Government recently announced that new petrol and diesel HGVs over 26tn will be banned by 2040, it’s advised that drivers start to consider greener alternatives for their fleet. Electric vehicles undoubtedly represent the future of fleet services. They will not only help to tackle the consequences of idling but also have a wider impact on the environment.  

However, idling in an electric vehicle can be costly for fleets so although it will not have as significant of an impact on the environment, it is not recommended. 


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David James
Sales Director

David has worked in the fuel card industry since 2008. His financial insights have been featured in various publications, such as The Sun, the Daily Express and The Yorkshire Times where he provides money-saving tips for motorists. David is passionate about charity work and regularly raises money through running events, including the London Marathon and the Leeds Abbey Dash.