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Idling semitrucks, cars contribute to 7% of air pollution, experts say

By Andrew Wittenberg | Posted - Jan 23rd, 2014 @ 9:34pm


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SALT LAKE CITY — Cars are the biggest contributors to air pollution, but trip chaining and reduction of idling can help make a difference when it comes to bad air days.

At a truck stop in Salt Lake, a dozen semitrucks are parked for the night, and several appeared to be idling. In fact, approximately 300 to 400 trucks idle for an extended period every night in the Salt Lake Valley.

"You've got to keep your heat, your air conditioning whatever," said Shawn Tiegan, research analyst for the Utah Foundation.

According to a new report from the Utah Foundation, idling semitrucks contribute as much as 7 percent to the daily NOx (mono-nitrogen oxides).

"You've got a big engine, you are burning diesel and you don't have a lot of the standards — the stringent general standards — that are put upon auto manufacturers to have clean cars," Teigen said. "You are reducing the emissions of an idling truck overnight by 90 percent or more," Teigen said.

We all contribute to our bad air when we start up a cold car. That's because catalytic converters need to heat up before they are effective in converting pollutants to less harmful emissions. This takes about two minutes.

The EPA estimates that drivers start their vehicles about six times per day, and cold starts produce one quarter of winter vehicle pollution.

"The things we can do that are easy are to refrain from idling or postponing trips on bad air days or trip chaining," Teigen said.

Experts strongly encourage chaining trips together instead of running one errand in the morning and one at night.

Programs are in place to provide incentives to truck companies to install auxiliary power units on long-haul trucks. Additionally, many truck stops are becoming electrified, including Sapp Brothers in Salt Lake, and the diesel-burning locomotive is also undergoing historic changes and will soon begin burning natural gas.

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Andrew Wittenberg

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