Schools can be seen as taking center stage on the issue of the harm and waste of unnecessary vehicle idling - on both sides of the coin. They represent the challenges in dealing with it and the opportunities of eliminating it. On the one side, the transportation network of school buses and other vehicles that serve the school environment presents the challenge of the need to protect the citizens of the school, particularly its students. Drivers must be made aware that idling on the school premises is a harmful practice. On the other side, schools present a tremendous opportunity to educate future motorists - before they acquire misinformed habits about idling, as well as the opportunity to change the behavior of adults - current motorists in the school community.
Idle-Free California advocates to reduce vehicle idling at schools on two levels: regulations and education.
REGULATIONS: California regulates the idling of vehicles 10,000 lbs. or greater. In the school environment, this includes medium- and heavy-duty school buses and delivery vehicles. Vehicles less than 10,000 lbs, mainly light-duty vehicles such as passenger cars, SUVs, vans and pickup trucks, are not regulated for idling. This allows motorists to let their engines run while waiting for dismissal. In our idle-free schools campaigns we have witnessed the amount of idling occurring at schools. The line up of mostly idling vehicles is known as caravan idling, which creates idling "hot spots" near school entrances. This has an adverse impact on people in the vicinity, especially students. The EPA states:
"Idling vehicles contribute to air pollution and emit air toxins, which are pollutants known or suspected to cause cancer or other serious health effects. Monitoring at schools has shown elevated levels of benzene, formaldehyde, acetaldehyde and other air toxics during the afternoon hour coinciding with parents picking up their children. Children’s lungs are still developing, and when they are exposed to elevated levels of these pollutants, children have an increased risk of developing asthma, respiratory problems and other adverse health effects. Limiting a vehicle’s idling time can dramatically reduce these pollutants and children’s exposure to them."
California recognized this issue in 2016 when the state legislature took a step on behalf of school student health by adopting ACR-160. Sponsored by former assemblymember David Hadley, this resolution addresses the issue of vehicular air pollution, specifically motor vehicle idling and children. This measure encourages motorists to not idle their motor vehicles near places where children congregate. Unfortunately, ACR-160 is non-binding - it is not enforceable.
Idle-Free California is encouraging legislators and the Air Resources Board to elevate this measure to a regulation.
These entities need to hear from YOU.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
• Using the compelling language by the EPA and in ACR-160, let your representatives know you would like a
California light-duty vehicle idling regulation to limit idling at schools or where children congregate. You can also
• Contact California Air Resources Board board members, some of which serve on local air districts and/or are
experts in fields that shape air quality rules.
- John R. Balmes, MD Physician Member email 510-643-4702
- John Gioia Bay Area AQMD Member & District One Supervisor 510-231-8686 webform email
- Judith Mitchell South Coast AQMD Member 310-377-1577 Ext. 304 email
- Barbara Riordan Mojave Desert AQMD Member 760-245-1661 Ext. 5040
- Ron Roberts San Diego APCD Member & San Diego Board of Supervisors 4th District webform email
- Phil Serna Sacramento Region Air Districts & Sac. County Board of Supervisors District 1 916-874-5485 email
- Alexander Sherriffs, MD San Joaquin Valley APCD Member & San Joaquin Valley APCD 559-834-1614
EDUCATION: To educate on the adverse effects of vehicle idling at schools, Idle-Free California recommends two approaches: idle-free classes and idle-free campaigns.
Idle-free classes are part of a curriculum taught in science, math, STEM, health, environment, and driver education classes. These sessions can include information on vehicle idling, negative impacts of idling (health, energy, carbon, economic) and even when idling can be necessary.
RESOURCES: Idle-Free California's Green Driving from the Start, Sustainable Jersey Anti-Idling Education & Enforcement, Clean Cities Idlebox Toolkit for Idling Reduction Projects (PowerPoint)
Idle-free schools campaigns address the issue of idling “hot spots” at many schools, for instance when parents pick up students in afternoon pick up areas (California regulates the idling of school buses and other heavy-duty vehicles at or near schools; light-duty vehicles are not regulated). The solution: science, math, STEM, health, and environmental teachers and their students conduct idle-free campaigns. These can be month-long short-term efforts in which data of idling vehicles is collected on school grounds, followed by an evaluation and an informational campaign to get the word out in the school community. Or unique long-term studies and campaigns which can last most of the school year. Steps include unobtrusive data collection for one week in the fall, schools announcing support of an idle-free campaign in the school community in late fall, a driver contact event for several days in late winter, and final data collection for one week in spring (to determine a "before" and "after" difference). These campaigns are designed to be led by middle and high school students, allowing them to learn organizational, analytical and communication skills as they perform data analysis, be empowered by showing drivers the significant benefits in shutting off engines when parked, and take pride in making a positive difference in their school community.
RESOURCES: Idle-Free California's California Idle-Free Schools, EPA Region 8 Idle Free Schools Toolkit, Spare the Air Turn the Key – Be Idle Free!, Grades of Green No Idle Zone, Idle-Free VT Idle-Free Schools Campaigns, Ace Alliance for Climate Education Idle-Free Schools Campaign
East Bay Times
Idle-Free California proposal to regulate the idling of vehicles less than 10,000 lbs. on school property
Listing of known idle-free school campaigns or initiatives in California (TELL US YOURS!):
Organized by: Spare the Air, San Francisco
San Carlos School District, 2015 Webpage
Organized by: San Mateo County Safe Routes to School: Idle Free San Carlos
Organized by: Grades of Green, El Segundo
Organized by: Spare the Air, San Francisco
Most school buses are equipped with heavy-duty diesel engines. Thanks to EPA regulations and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) Lower Emissions School Bus Program, the vast majority of California's 25,000+ school buses have lower emissions. The primary goal of this program is to reduce school children's exposure to both cancer-causing and smog-forming pollution. The program provides grant funding for new, cleaner, safer school buses and to put air pollution control equipment (i.e., retrofit devices) on buses that are already on the road.
Additionally, the California School Bus Idling and Idling at Schools Regulation limits idling of school buses and heavy-duty commercial motor vehicles greater than 10,000 pounds that operate at or near schools. This regulation is a big win, that not only protects school students and others from diesel exhaust, it reduces carbon emissions, conserves energy, and saves California taxpayers money in unburned fuel and lessened engine maintenance.
Observation of Idling School Bus, Transit Bus or Delivery Vehicle On or Near School Property: Idling commercial vehicles are detrimental to California's air quality. You can help reduce the harmful air pollutants caused by idling school buses or delivery vehicles by calling the California Air Resources Board's Vehicle Complaint Hotline, at 1-800-363-7664 or 1-800-END-SMOG. Or, fill out the ARB online complaint form. The ARB will be in contact with the vehicle owner to address the issue.
THE WAVE OF THE FUTURE (and the present): ELECTRIC SCHOOL BUSES. While still relatively in their infancy, as production grows to lower costs, and battery capabilities improve, clean electric school buses are beginning to make inroads. And California is leading the way with new or retrofitted electric school buses being added to fleets of school districts. As of April 2018, the growing list of California school districts having at least one electric school bus includes:
•Brawley Elementary School District
•Calaveras Unified School District
•Chico Unified School District
•Edison School District
•Fall River Joint Unified School District (Burney)
•Gateway Unified School District
•Gilroy Unified School District
•Gonzales Unified School District
•Healdsburg Unified School District
•Kings Canyon Unified School District (Reedley)
•Konocti Unified School District
•Napa Valley Unified School District
•Oroville Union High School District
•Palermo Union School District
•Plumas Unified School District
•Santa Rita Union Elementary School District
•Rescue Union School District
•Torrance Unified School District
•Twin Rivers Unified School District (McClellan Park)
•Ukiah Unified School District
•Wilsona School District (Palmdale)
Electric school bus at California State Capitol
The ChildSafe School: No Idling Zone