Michael J. Connolly and Sons of Walpole, Mass. will implement idling reduction measures and pay a penalty of $33,000 to settle U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) allegations that it violated federally enforceable motor vehicle idling limits in Massachusetts. The school bus contractor operates 300 yellow buses and provides student transportation services in 15 communities around Boston.
EPA officials alleged that Connolly was in violation of motor vehicle idling limits specified in the Massachusetts air quality state implementation plan after observing school buses idling for extended periods of time in company bus lots located in Mansfield, Sharon, Walpole and Natick in both December and January. The applicable regulations establish requirements for all motor vehicles operating in the state and generally limit idling to no more than five minutes, with few exceptions.
“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.”
Under the settlement, the company will implement a host of idling reduction measures including training all drivers, posting anti-idling signs, performing periodic “walk throughs” of school bus lots to ensure no excessive idling occurs and notifying all school districts of Connolly’s policy against excessive idling.
The company has already implemented a number of these idle reduction measures. In addition, Connolly has a new bus fleet and a standard practice of replacing old buses with new ones every three years. Company officials have also committed to physically disconnect the “override” capability of the automatic shutoff mechanism on every school bus so that this automatic shutoff mechanism operates without interruption.
Idling diesel engines emit pollutants that may cause or aggravate a variety of health problems including asthma and other respiratory diseases, particularly in children, and the fine particles in diesel exhaust are a likely human carcinogen, according to EPA. Diesel exhaust contributes to area-wide air quality problems, while more direct exposure can cause lightheadedness, nausea, sore throat, coughing and other symptoms. School bus drivers, student passengers, facility workers, neighbors and bystanders are all vulnerable, EPA stated.
Idling school buses consume about one-half gallon of diesel fuel per hour. For example, if a bus company had a fleet of 1,000 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.
Common alternatives to excessive idling include the use of technologies like engine pre-heaters and practices such as keeping drivers and passengers inside buildings until buses are ready to briefly warm up and depart.
The Connolly settlement is the latest in a series of EPA enforcement actions designed to minimize excessive idling among school buses in New England. Since 2009, EPA New England has brought actions against six school bus operators, leading to substantial reductions both in idling and in the resultant harmful emissions.
For more information on EPA Clean Diesel efforts, click here.