Doing Our Share for Cleaner Air: Idling Reduction

Doing Our Share for Cleaner Air: Idling Reduction: Chicago’s Anti-Idling Law

In 2009, the Chicago City Council passed an anti-idling ordinance applicable to diesel vehicle. Section 9-80-095 of the City’s Traffic Code limits standing (idling) of on-road diesel-powered vehicles within the City’s borders to a total of three (3) minutes within a sixty-minute period.  This strict idling limit not only improves air quality, but also results in fuel conservation. Reasons for the ordinance are:

Air Pollution

The City of Chicago is located in a US Environmental Protection Agency designated non-attainment area for particulate matter and ozone.  Chicago is a hub for trucking, rail and marine transportation and relies on diesel-powered vehicles and equipment to provide critical services within the City.  These diesel-powered vehicles perform crucial work in order to sustain our economy but are also a significant contributor to air pollution in the Chicago region.  Unnecessary idling causes the release of a variety of pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, particulate matter and other chemicals that form ground-level ozone and contribute to global warming.  These pollutants aggravate respiratory ailments, cause lung damage, and lead to cancer. Read more about diesel exhaust health concerns from the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Wasted Fuel and Money

Idling wastes fuel and money. When idling, a typical diesel-powered truck  burns almost a gallon of fuel per hour. Drivers that eliminate unnecessary idling can save significant dollars in fuel costs each year.  For instance, by not idling 30 minutes a day for one year, a truck driver saves 125 gallons of diesel and therefore approximately $481 in fuel costs (assuming a diesel fuel price of $3.85 per gallon)—while also preventing at least 101 pounds of air pollution and 2,775 pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere.

Engine Wear-and-Tear
Idling myths and driver habits lead to unnecessary vehicle idling. The fact is extended idling causes engine damage. Diesel engines were designed to operate at peak efficiency running wide open.  At low idle, the cylinder temperature drops causing incomplete combustion which leads to carbon build up on the valves.  Engine manufacturers generally recommend that drivers limit idling.

  • Caterpillar Inc. cautions drivers to "... Avoid excess idling. If the vehicle is parked for more than five minutes, stop the engine. Excessive idling can cause carbon buildup and/or excessive idling can cause the engine to ‘slobber’. This is harmful to the engine."
  • IC Corporation's engine manual states that "...Excessive idling reduces fuel economy, and may decrease oil life."
  • Cummins Inc. suggests idling for only three to five minutes before operating with a load.

Who Is Enforcing the Law?
The idling law can be enforced by Department of Public Health (CDPH) inspectors, traffic control aides, parking enforcement aides, and police officers.

What is the Penalty?
The penalty for violating the excessive standing code is $250 per violation. 


The goal of the ordinance is to reduce unnecessary idling; thus, there are certain exemptions from the three (3) minute limit. A complete list of exemptions can be found in the ordinance and include:

  • Authorized emergency vehicles
  • Vehicles standing in traffic
  • Vehicles running when the outdoor air temperature is below 32 degrees or above 80 degrees Fahrenheit, for the operator’s or passengers’ safety
  • Vehicles standing with the engine running to operate auxiliary equipment

The Ordinance
The ordinance is in section 9-80-095 of the Chicago Municipal Code.

City of Chicago Vehicle Idling Management Policy:

The City of Chicago's Vehicle Idling Management Policy limits idling of municipal vehicles to 3 minutes, with certain exceptions.  This policy applies to all non-emergency City vehicles, whether powered by gasoline, diesel, or alternative fuels.  

Click here to view the Vehicle Idling Management Policy .

Related Links

National Idling Reduction Network News
The National Idling Reduction Network brings together trucking and transit companies; railroads; ports; equipment manufacturers; Federal, state, and local government agencies; nonprofit organizations; and national research laboratories to identify consistent, workable solutions to heavy-vehicle idling for the entire United States.

State of Illinois Law Limiting Idling
Illinois State statute 625 ILCS 5/11‑1429 prohibits diesel vehicles of more than 8,000 pounds (heavy-duty trucks and buses) from idling for more than ten minutes per hour when they are parked.  The State law applies in areas of the State of Illinois that do not meet federal air quality standards.

Excessive Visible Emissions Regulation
The City’s Traffic Code also prohibits visible emissions. Section 9-76-140 requires exhaust systems to be equipped and adjusted in order to prevent the escape of excessive fumes or smoke.  The penalty for operating a vehicle that is generating excessive amounts of visible emissions from the exhaust pipe is $100 per violation.