EPA Fines School Bus Company $33K for Excessive Idling

Idling buses burn about one-half gallon of diesel per hour, pose health hazard to kids & drivers and spew greenhouse gas unnecessarily

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced yesterday a $33,000 penalty against North Reading Transportation (NRT), a Methuen company that operates school buses and provides student transportation services in several Massachusetts communities, to settle EPA allegations that it violated federally-enforceable motor vehicle idling limits in Massachusetts.

Under the settlement, the company will implement a suite of idling reduction measures, including training all drivers, posting anti-idling signs, performing periodic “walk-throughs” of school bus lots to ensure that no excessive idling occurs, and notifying all school districts of NRT’s policy against excessive idling. In addition, NRT will install block heaters in nearly 200 of its school buses. NRT has responded quickly and already has implemented a number of these idle reduction measures.

Earlier in 2013, an EPA inspector observed NRT school buses idling for extended periods of time in school bus lots in the Mass. communities of Lowell, Lynn, Wilmington and Methuen.
EPA alleged that the company’s excessive idling was in violation of federally-enforceable motor vehicle idling limits contained in the Massachusetts air quality state implementation plan. The applicable regulations establish requirements for all motor vehicles operating in the state, and, with very few exceptions, limit idling to no more five minutes.

“Diesel exhaust is a serious health concern for children, both here in Massachusetts and across the country. Reducing idling helps protect children’s health,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “Taking easy and common-sense steps to avoid excessive idling helps to save fuel and money, and reduces unnecessary air pollution including greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.”

Children, especially those suffering from asthma or other respiratory ailments, are particularly vulnerable to diesel exhaust. Idling diesel engines emit pollutants which can cause or aggravate a variety of health problems including asthma and other respiratory diseases, and the fine particles in diesel exhaust are a likely human carcinogen. Diesel exhaust not only contributes to area-wide air quality problems, but more direct exposure can cause lightheadedness, nausea, sore throat, coughing, and other symptoms. Drivers, school children riding on the buses, facility workers, neighbors and bystanders are all vulnerable. 

Idling school buses consume about one-half gallon of fuel per hour. For example, if a bus company had a fleet of 1000 buses, and was able to reduce idling time for the fleet by one hour per day, the company would reduce its fuel use by 90,000 gallons per year, and avoid emitting more than 2.1 Million pounds of carbon dioxide per year. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. 

For more information, please see EPA Clean Diesel Campaign (http://www.epa.gov/otaq/diesel/index.htm)