HOW DOES IDLE TIME AFFECT YOUR OPERATION?
Idle time, of course, is the time your equipment is running while not doing productive work. Granted, some idle time is built into any operation. For example, you can’t ask an operator in Alaska to turn off the cab heat when it’s 25 degrees below — at least not if you expect to keep them on your crew.
Application factors affect your total idle time, too. A cleanup machine will spend a good percentage of its time waiting for the primary operation to be completed. There’s no way around that. In fact, according to some industry experts, idle time can easily represent as much as 40-50% of total machine running time.
The trick, then, is to eliminate unnecessary idle time. That’s what bleeds your operation of money that could be spent elsewhere or sent to your bottom line. Eliminating excess idle time becomes even more imperative when you look at all of the costs it can rack up over time.
IDLE TIME COSTS MORE THAN YOU MIGHT THINK
Fuel burn is at the top of the idle time cost list. Every nonproductive hour for every machine translates into a gallon or more of wasted fuel. That adds up fast. Consider the example below to see how excess idling drives up fuel costs if your machine logs 2,000 of total run time each year.
Excess fuel burn is only one portion of idle time cost. Here are some other expenses to consider:
Component life: Every extra hour of operation adds wear to key components, especially moving parts in engines and transmissions. Make sure you’re getting the most out of component life by being productive and earning money, not by idling.
Fluid and filter life: Likewise, you want to avoid having to pay for extra fluid and filter changes. It’s better to use up those consumables on productive work time.
Tier 4 components: Emissions control technologies wear any time the engine is running. Idling can sometimes even lead to heat buildup that makes the problem worse.
Warranty hours and resale value: The covered machine hours “burn up” just like fuel as your machine runs, as does the machine’s ultimate resale value.
Emissions output: Fines are increasingly common for generating carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and other exhaust gas pollutants. That means excess idle time can take money right out of your pocket.
STRATEGIES TO PREVENT EXCESS IDLE TIME
So, what can you do to reduce idle time to the bare minimum? A lot depends on the needs of your operations (as we’ve seen) and on the age of your fleet. Here are six ways to reduce the time your valuable equipment idles every day:
Limit idle time at shutoff: Older machines need to idle for about two minutes before shutting down. Any more than that is a waste. Newer engines require almost no idling before shutting down, so turn them off quickly.
Turn off idling trucks: If your trucks are waiting more than five minutes to load or dump, turn them off until it’s time to pull into position.
Restrict morning warmups: Three to five minutes is generally enough to get engine fluids circulating. Run easy for a while after that until all systems are at their full operating temperatures.
Shut down for lunch times and breaks: This one is a no-brainer. If the machine isn't being operated, shut it down whenever possible.
Use auto shutdown: If it’s a feature available on your machine, automatic shutdown makes it easy to save fuel and avoid building up idle hours on the clock.
Get inactive equipment out of the way: Anticipate the movement of equipment and position unused equipment where it won’t impede movement around your site. Again, it’s a no-brainer, but it’s an easy guideline to forget in the heat of battle on a busy jobsite.