How to detect and stop true fleet idling

Published on June 17, 2016 in Fleet Optimization by Jason Widla

Fleet idling can be costly to business operations. Learn how to stop it with tips on rules setting and notifications, driver coaching, and reporting.

Some drivers idle without even thinking about it. For example, an employee waits in their car for a coworker at a local coffee shop, the engine humming in the background. However, fleet idling can be very costly to business operations, in terms of wasted fuel, accumulation of vehicle maintenance costs, the possibility of fines or infractions, and the environmental impact of excessive emissions.


Increased awareness of idling behavior, through the Geotab solution, can help reduce overall fleet costs. Read this article to learn how to identify and manage idling in MyGeotab.


See also: The power of PTO connections in telematics

True idling versus operational idling

A common myth in trucking is that diesel engines need five minutes of warmup time before driving. These days, most diesel engine manufacturers recommend no more than three minutes of preparational idling. Any time longer than that can actually cause engine damage. As such, fleet managers should make sure that they understand the difference between true idling and operational idling.


With the combination of high-resolution data logging points of the GO device and the IOX-AUX Add-On, fleet managers can use MyGeotab to easily see whether assets are wasting time or being used for stand-still job applications.

  • True Idling or Non-Operational Idling — In MyGeotab, a vehicle will be in true idling when the vehicle ignition is on and there is no power take-off (PTO) usage identified either through engine status data or through IOX-AUX based input. IOX-AUX is an Add-On for the Geotab GO7 device which measures external vehicle inputs.
  • Operational Idling — If a vehicle is idling but the fleet manager can see PTO usage through engine status data or through IOX-AUX, then this is classified as operational idling. PTO is a mechanism which drives the engine power from the engine to another external application, high-powered vacuum or a lift on the back of a trailer. Most often, PTO will be used when the engine is running and the vehicle is standing still. Three to minutes of vehicle warm up time can also be considered operational idling as well.

Suggested Reading: Start and Stop Technology in the Quest Against Idling

How to manage fleet idling in MyGeotab

There are a number of tools that fleet managers can use to manage idling.

Set up a true idling rule and notification

Fleet managers can set software-based rules to identify drivers who are idling for any non-business purpose, i.e. detect true idling for longer than five minutes. Fleet managers can then be notified of any exceptions generated from these rules via email or text message.


PTO comes through as engine status data. Depending on the OEM and make and model of the vehicle, the engine data is variable. 

PTO activity can be sporadic and there isn’t a solid pattern to track. Therefore, a more reliable indicator of true idling is PTO state. 

Looking for that flip of the switch (i.e. 0 or 1 value) can show whether the PTO was actually activated.


To develop a rule to capture this information, we need to consider both conditions, which are engine status data and info from the IOX-AUX.


The rule can be defined as:

Speed < 3mph and Status Data Diagnostic “PTO Status (0=Disengaged/1=Engaged)” > 0 or Aux1 is true and Ignition is true

Watch a tutorial on setting up the custom idling rule in MyGeotab.

Driver coaching tools for idling

Driver feedback helps reduce idling occurrence rates within a fleet by notifying drivers when idling occurs, so they can immediately adjust their behavior. The Geotab GO device can be configured to produce in-cab audible beeping through the device’s built-in buzzer or deliver a spoken text-to-speech message using the GO TALK Live In-Vehicle Verbal Feedback Add-On.


Related Post: Fleet Management: A Challenging World?

Track trends with custom reports

The standard Exception Details report, included by default within each MyGeotab database, shows when, where and for how long true idling or wasted time events occurred. By using rules that differentiate between operational and non-operational idling, it becomes possible to calculate a breakdown of time spent within each category. From there, some report customization can provide a scoring element that ranks vehicles and drivers on their performance.



As you can imagine, there are a number of possibilities when it comes to visualizing this data. Thankfully, for those of us who are not Microsoft Excel experts, the Geotab Marketplace provides some useful Custom Report templates which can help add firepower to the fight against true idle time reduction. Here are some examples:

  • Weekly Idle Cost – Daily Trend Report: Shows the overall cost of idling for the fleet. Intended to be run for a week’s duration, broken down daily for trending analysis.
  • Last 3 Months Idling Trend: Displays the total idling time for the entire fleet over the last three months.
  • Trended Exception Report: Showcase how your drivers are doing compared to each other on a trend. Designed to be reporting for a monthly or weekly data set, showing daily or weekly trends.

To learn about more free custom reports for MyGeotab, check out this quick overview.

Driver awareness and training are key

Idling is a state that the driver has chosen to operate the vehicle in, so driver awareness and training are key. Telematics data collection, reporting, and driver coaching can all assist fleet managers in creating more sustainable and efficient fleets. Perhaps, in the future, electric and driverless vehicles will become a solution to this problem.


Geotab’s Colin Sutherland explains how Geotab helps reduce fleet idling in this recent interview with the IDLE-FREE Guy.


How do you feel about the impact of idling on your fleet? Let us know in the comments field below!


More from this author:
A world without human drivers: Submitting vehicle control to the power of telematic

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Geotab's blog posts are intended to provide information and encourage discussion on topics of interest to the telematics community at large. Geotab is not providing technical, professional or legal advice through these blog posts. While every effort has been made to ensure the information in this blog post is timely and accurate, errors and omissions may occur, and the information presented here may become out-of-date with the passage of time.

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