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Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Gov. Gary Herbert announces an idling reduction policy for the state fleet Thursday, May 31, 2012, in Salt Lake City. The executive order requires state vehicles to be turned off if they idle for more than 30 seconds. Exceptions will be made to certain fleet vehicles that require their engines to be on for safety and specific job functions, like UHP or UDOT vehicles.

SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert is putting the brakes on idling by signing the Reduction of Automotive Idling Executive Order, requiring all state vehicles to shut down whenever they’re idling for more than 30 seconds when not in traffic.

There are 7,300 vehicles in the state's fleet that travel more than 78 million miles per year. The time that state vehicles spend idling is currently calculated at 20.92 percent. By mandating all state agencies to comply with this executive order, the governor expects not only an improvement in air quality, but a savings in fuel costs as well.

“Simply put, I think this is a common sense thing,” he said. “It's part of our U-CAIR initiative, and we want everybody to participate."

The Utah Clean Air Partnership is a statewide initiative to improve air quality. It offers ways individuals, businesses and government can reduce emissions. It also offers incentives and recognition programs to inspire employers and drivers to become clean air leaders.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, passenger vehicles can use up to 0.48 gallons per hour by idling. With the executive order, the state expects to save up to 60,000 gallons of fuel per year. And it will be enacted on an agency-by-agency basis. There are some agencies that will have exceptions, agencies like UHP and UDOT, where idling may be required for safety and specific job functions.

“If we have lights going on or if we have electronics working in the vehicle where the electricity is generated by the vehicle, then we probably won't shut down then,” said John Njord, executive director of the Utah Department of Transportation. “But if there is an opportunity for us to shut down where we just parked by the side of the road and we can do that, then we're going to do that.”

Each agency will have select vehicles equipped with a monitoring device. Over the next six months the state will compile the data and determine if the program is working and if the air quality is improving.

“There is power in example, and if the state can lead, others can follow other governments and citizens,” said Alan Matheson, senior environmental adviser for the governor’s office. “Collectively we can make a difference.”

Each state agency is being asked to come up with its idling policy, which would detail any consequences for employees not following the no idling order. There will also be opportunities to reward employees for going above and beyond.

Utah generally has good air quality, but 15 to 20 days a year sees inversions that exceed the federal health standards. By enforcing this new executive order to reduce idling, the state hopes to reduce that number.

Agencies will also encourage employees to reduce or avoid idling when driving their personal vehicles.

The six-month pilot program will be implemented on or before July 1.

"We urge individuals and businesses to join us in this important effort," added Herbert. "If each of us does our part, we can make a difference in both our air quality and quality of life."

Contributing:  Viviane Vo-Duc