The Great Idling Crackdown

New York City is cracking down on excessive vehicle idling in its aggressive statewide campaign known as the Stop Smoking Initiative for Trucks. Emissions from diesel-engine vehicles contain sulfur dioxide, particulate matter and nitrogen oxide, creating ground-level ozone that contributes to hundreds of thousands of asthma attacks in the U.S. each year.

The initiative comes on the heels of a successful city-state crackdown on truck and boiler pollution conducted in October 2008 in East Harlem, a neighborhood clouded by poor air quality caused by heavy truck traffic. During the operation, NYSDEC officers together with the New York City Department of Environmental Protection issued 43 tickets for excessive idling and an additional 163 tickets to diesel truck operators for various air and safety regulation violations.

The Empire State is not alone in its efforts to curb idling. Since there is no national anti-idling law, 15 states, including California, Maryland and Connecticut, and a number of local communities have created their own anti-idling laws. According to the American Transportation Research Institute, fines for excessive idling vary widely by state, ranging anywhere from $100 up to $15,000 for a first-time offense.


Currently, NYC has a three-minute idling limit that targets all vehicles, with certain exceptions. But the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) has taken the matter to the streets by setting up so-called “enforcement actions’ in heavy truck “hot spots’ and issuing tickets to violating offenders. So far, the NYSDEC has committed to performing one operation per month in one of the five boroughs. And city residents can take part in the crackdown by calling 311 to report excessive idling.