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Diesel exhaust from idling school buses poses a health risk to both students and drivers. When school buses idle outside school buildings, they emit exhaust fumes that can enter both the passenger compartments of the buses and the school buildings through ventilation systems. Scientific studies have concluded that exposure to diesel exhaust has many negative health effects including lung damage and respiratory problems. Although everyone is affected by diesel exhaust, children are most susceptible since their respiratory systems are still developing.
There are many benefits to reducing the amount of time that school buses idle each day. It helps protect the health of student passengers and school bus drivers. It reduces the air pollutants that contribute to high ozone and fine particles in a community. Reducing idling also saves money by lowering fuel consumption and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. In general a diesel vehicle burns approximately one gallon of fuel for every hour it idles. Less idling also saves on maintenance costs and increases the life of the engine.
All bus drivers should turn off their engines when they reach the school or other destinations, unless they will be leaving within a few minutes. Turning off the engine, instead of idling, while waiting for students will decrease the amount of diesel exhaust fumes released into the air. During morning start-up, buses should idle for the shortest possible duration necessary to bring the bus to proper operating temperature and to defrost the windows. There are times when idling may be necessary: the engine must be running to operate safety equipment, when the temperature is less than 32 degrees, or if a certain temperature must be maintained for students with special needs.
In cooperation with the School Transportation Association of Indiana (STAI), IDEM introduced a voluntary reduced idling program. This policy was unanimously adopted by STAI members at the annual conference in 2004. This policy can be implemented at any school system and/or municipality across the State of Indiana. Benefits of implementing this policy include: protecting the health of student passengers and school bus drivers, reducing air pollutants that contribute to high ozone in a community, reducing fine particles, and saving money by lowering fuel consumption and maintenance costs.