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Executive Members asked to approve plans to tackle vehicle idling

Wednesday 6th February 2019

Buses, Driving, Going to Work, Going to School, Visiting York

City of York Council’s Executive Member for Planning and Transport and Executive Member for the Environment will be asked to approve a package of measures aimed at deterring stationary vehicles from idling in a bid to improve air quality and public health, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and vehicle noise.

A report that will be considered at a Joint Decision Session on 7th February sets out a proposed timetable for the introduction of measures designed to tackle the issue. It follows on from a decision by the council’s Executive in January of last year to adopt anti-idling measures. Following consultation with York’s Quality Bus Partnership, signage was recently put in place at bus stops around the city to remind drivers of their responsibilities.

The recommendations in the report include a proposal to authorise council officers to use their discretionary powers under the Road Traffic Regulations 2002 to issue fixed penalty notices of £20 to drivers who refuse to switch off their engines. The report emphasises that enforcement would always be a last resort and that the problem of stationary vehicle idling will, first and foremost, be addressed by raising awareness, particularly in those areas of the city where complaints arise, such as residential areas and outside schools.

If the plans are approved, a Fixed Penalty Notice would only be issued if a vehicle has been observed idling on the public highway for more than two minutes and the driver refuses to switch their engine off.  Anyone issued with a Fixed Penalty Notice for idling would have 28 days to pay. If they fail to do so, the fine would rise to £40.

The report highlights the fact that the legislation only applies to the public highway and not to private land, such as car parks, where the issue will have to be addressed in a different way. It also notes that it would not be applied to vehicles waiting in a queue of traffic, unless there’s an obvious source of prolonged delay, such as a level crossing or an incident that’s blocking the highway.

Observations made around the city have indicated that there’s an inconsistent approach to idling among vehicle operators; that those driving in the course of the work do not always comply with their company’s policies; and that the use of technology designed to automatically cut off power to a vehicle when it’s stationary is ad-hoc. Awareness-raising activities carried out on Clean Air Day 2017 and 2018 observed idling by buses and coaches.

The report concludes that stationary idling has no benefit for most vehicles; that it’s better to switch off the engine if idling is anticipated for one minute; that the health and environmental benefits, and fuel savings, significantly outweigh the cost of taking anti-idling measures; that most idling can be addressed by offering education and advice to drivers; and that very few Fixed Penalty Notices have been issued for idling offences by other local authorities.

It identifies a number of constraints to tackling the issue, including the fact that many older buses can be less reliable to switch on. However, it notes that bus operators are working towards replacing these with electric buses or upgrading them to achieve higher emission standards.

If the plans are approved, an awareness-raising campaign would be launched in mid-2019, six weeks before the proposed introduction of anti-idling enforcement patrols, which would be timed to coincide with Clean Air Day 2019 on 20th June.

Councillor Peter Dew, Executive Member for Transport and Planning, said: “Through the Quality Bus Partnership, we’re working closely with bus operators around the city, who have been extremely proactive in terms of helping us to raise awareness of this issue among their drivers. Many buses now also have technology on board to prevent idling, and the introduction of more electric buses during the course of 2019 will also help to address this issue.”

Councillor Andrew Waller, Executive Member for the Environment, said: “Idling is an issue that we receive complaints about, particularly near schools and residential areas. These measures are aimed at improving air quality and public health, as well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions and vehicle noise.”

The Joint Decision Session will take place on 7th February and is open to members of the public and available to watch live online at www.york.gov.uk/webcasts
To find out more about the report visit http://democracy.york.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=733&MId=10473