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Updated Mar 26, 2024

How to Reduce Idle Time for Your Fleet

Mark Fairlie
Mark Fairlie, Senior Analyst & Expert on Business Ownership

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Idle time is a major cause of stress for business fleet managers. Vehicle idling leads to unnecessary fuel consumption, higher operating costs, increased vehicle wear and tear and impaired company efficiency.  

In this article, we examine the effect idling has on companies’ bottom lines and how fleets are using GPS tracking and other tools to combat the issue.

What is idle time?

For companies that operate commercial vehicle fleets, idle time describes when the engine is running but your vehicle isn’t moving.

In some instances, idling is a good thing. For example, in very cold temperatures, idling can make restarting a diesel engine much easier by lowering the oil’s viscosity and ensuring the fuel doesn’t gel. It’s also helpful in keeping a vehicle’s batteries charged adequately during required breaks on long-distance hauls and ensuring that the sleeper cab is warm enough.

Most of the time, however, idling is not a good thing. It pushes up fuel bills significantly and makes vehicle engines work harder than they have to, which means they require more ongoing maintenance.

Editor’s note: Looking for the right GPS fleet management service for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you about your needs.

How you can reduce fleet idle times

To determine whether your drivers are idling their vehicles too often, you need to be able to monitor their behavior on the road. For that, you need a GPS fleet tracking platform.

Using GPS fleet tracking systems to lower idle times

GPS fleet tracking tools monitor the location and performance of the vehicles in your fleet in real time. These robust tracking tools keep track of every journey, providing a wealth of data on metrics like fuel economy and engine idle time as well as useful details about each driver’s behavior behind the wheel.

Many of these tools have optimized routing built-in. This means that they can plan journeys that take less busy routes so your driver is less likely to sit in stationary traffic where idling is most likely. 

The system will show fleet managers on their dashboard how often and for how long each individual driver idles their vehicles on their new fuel-efficient routes. A company can use these insights to identify where there are training opportunities. 

It’s important to let your drivers know that reducing idling is a goal for the fleet. Knowing now that how they drive is being monitored, they might compel them to perform better.

TipBottom line

One way many GPS fleet tracking systems incentivize better driving is through gamification — in other words, by stoking workplace competition. These systems rank drivers in real time based on their driving habits. Monthly rewards are given for the best performers and drivers can track their position in the company throughout the month.

Other ways to lower idle times

There are other ways to reduce idling time that don’t rely on a GPS system. They include:

  • Fuel-operated heaters: These heaters keep the vehicle cabin warm while the engine is off.
  • Auxiliary power units (APUs): APUs power vehicle functions like heating, cooling and charging up electronic devices.
  • Automatic engine start and stop systems: These systems shut down the engine automatically when the vehicle is stationary and restart it when it’s time to move.
  • Electronic engine idle parameters: Adjusting these settings can reduce unnecessary idling by switching the vehicle off automatically if the engine has been idling for longer than the limit you define.
  • Battery heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems: Your drivers can run an HVAC system from a battery instead of the main engine.

Why should you use GPS tracking software to combat idle time?

When your business mitigates the negative impacts of idle time using GPS tracking software, these are some benefits you’ll likely see:

  • Lower insurance costs
  • Increased fuel efficiency
  • Lower maintenance costs
  • Reduced environmental effects

We’ll explore the details of these advantages below.

Lower insurance costs 

Companies that choose not to use GPS tracking software for their assets are often burdened with higher insurance costs than those who implement the technology. Many insurance companies offer discounts of up to 25 percent for businesses on commercial auto insurance that opt to install GPS tracking software in their fleet vehicles. [Related article: 14 Ways to Save Money on Business Insurance]

When an insurance company can’t verify or accurately quantify a driver’s actions while on the road, it’s likely to charge higher rates. Additionally, transporting valuable assets without the ability to monitor and track their journey poses a significant financial threat as it exposes companies to a higher risk of theft. Going without a GPS system also jeopardizes the security of the employees, the vehicles and the products in transit.

Did You Know?Did you know

Each state has its own commercial auto insurance laws. If one of your vehicles drives out of state, your insurance carrier matches whatever that state’s legal limits are, meaning that you’re covered. If in doubt, check before you make the trip.

Increased fuel efficiency

GPS tracking software’s sophistication has helped countless businesses save money on travel and transportation costs. If you don’t take advantage of the valuable information GPS technology provides, you’ll miss out on the opportunity to improve your drivers’ behavior and identify routes with less required idling and traffic stops. 

Idling is a problem because engines can use up to a half gallon of gas each hour. Without GPS software, you may needlessly waste fuel because of numerous inefficiencies across your operation. 

While fleets without GPS technology may only use a few more gallons per vehicle than they would with the right technology, those gallons add up. They can aggregate significantly higher fuel emissions and expenses over a year. 

Lower maintenance costs 

Fleets that travel without the assistance of GPS software will inevitably encounter more frequent maintenance issues. For heavy machinery, including many fleet vehicles’ preventative maintenance schedules are based on hours of operation instead of miles traveled. 

GPS technology allows businesses to track a fleet’s routine maintenance beyond simple mileage requirements. For example, the system will recognize when a truck is using an abnormal amount of fuel or oil or shows wear and tear because of the total hours the motor has been running. 

Avoidable maintenance costs can add up quickly and negatively impact operational expenses, especially when competitors are using GPS technology to help keep their vehicles on the road longer.

Reduced environmental effects 

All businesses, especially those who use a lot of fuel, must take responsibility for their contribution to environmental harm and climate change. When companies are operating fleets with significant amounts of idle time, they are inevitably causing more damage to the environment. Among transportation vehicles, medium- and heavy-duty trucks are the second-largest contributors — at 23 percent — of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

GPS tracking software helps limit idle time in various ways, reducing the carbon footprint of businesses worldwide. 

FYIDid you know

Most insurance companies that provide commercial auto insurance offer lower monthly premiums for vehicles with active GPS tracking technology.

What is the impact of excessive idle time? 

Excessive idle time ultimately impacts profitability in many ways: wasting fuel is the most obvious. Other idle time repercussions can affect your company’s overall success in the competitive marketplace. The impact of idle time on companies operating large fleets is particularly significant, but idle time fallout can affect companies operating fleets of any size.

According to the North American Council for Freight Efficiency, idling can burn between 0.6 to 1 gallon of fuel each hour. Over the course of a day, a vehicle battery-powered air heater will use a gallon of fuel too. The average truck on United States roads idles for around 1,000 hours per annum, added the organization. 

The council concluded in a report that the best solutions for fleets involve a mix of complementary technologies used together. However, the findings highlight the fact that drivers will always play a “very important part” in managing a fleet’s idle times successfully.

TipBottom line

Many trucking companies use electronic logging devices to ensure drivers comply with hours of service regulations.

Best GPS fleet management software for reducing idle time

We reviewed some of the best GPS fleet tracking services on the market. Find summaries of eight of the leading packages below, including how they handle idling, followed by links to our most recent in-depth reviews for each platform.


FleetUp helps fleets reduce fuel use and engine wear and tear in several ways, including improving driver performance. Fleet managers can access detailed reports on driver behavior, including idling and setting up real-time notifications to be immediately alerted to instances of excessive idling.

Read our comprehensive FleetUp review.

GPS Trackit

With GPS Trackit’s alert system, managers can be notified when a driver is idling so they can take immediate action. They can also find in-depth idling and drive behavior information on the platform’s fuel performance reports. The impressive route optimization with GPS Trackit will also reduce how often drivers get stuck in jams.

Read our in-depth GPS TrackIt review.


Samara’s GPS platform measures 27 different driver behavior and fuel metrics, one of which is engine idle time. You can set the system to receive alerts if a vehicle engine idles for a specific period of time when out on the road. 

Read our up-to-date Samsara review.


Azuga’s excellent DriveSafe behavior score ranks drivers on several metrics, including idling time, harsh braking and rapid acceleration. This helps managers know which drivers would benefit from training. Managers can also set idling rules that require drivers to turn off the engine after a given length of time.

Read our detailed Azuga review.


ClearPathGPS offers managers many tools to reduce driving across their fleet. The reports on vehicle activity and driver behavior are helpful and comprehensive. We like how you can time the system to generate regular reports on issues of concern so you can track performance toward fleet goals over time — idling could be one of those factors. 

Managers can also receive alerts when a vehicle has idled past the time they set. 

Read our in-depth review of ClearPathGPS.

Verizon Connect

The Verizon Connect platform handles analysis and reporting on vehicle and driver metrics particularly well, including idling. The platform default for what constitutes idling is five minutes. Each manager defines idling differently, and we appreciate how managers can change the default to customize the platform for their fleet.

Read our up-to-date review of Verizon Connect.


Fleet managers can measure idling either as part of the Driver RoadScores safety metric or through the Housecall Pro Integration. The platform also provides in-depth but easy-to-understand vehicle performance reports that include idling percentages as a metric so managers can monitor the issue over time.

Read our comprehensive review of Force.


Motive handles idling impressively in several ways. Its Fuel Hub allows fleet managers to track fuel consumption by measuring activities like idling and hard cornering across the fleet or by individual drivers or vehicles. The platform’s fuel analysis report also helps you identify which drivers idle the most. You can filter reports for longer idling events and export reports on individual idling events.

Read our detailed review of Motive.

Jeff Hale contributed to this article.

Mark Fairlie
Mark Fairlie, Senior Analyst & Expert on Business Ownership
Mark Fairlie has written extensively on business finance, business development, M&A, accounting, tax, cybersecurity, sales and marketing, SEO, investments, and more for clients across the world for the past five years. Prior to that, Mark owned one of the largest independent managed B2B email and telephone outsourcing companies in the UK prior to selling up in 2015.
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