No Idling!

How to ban school bus idling

I can vividly recall riding the school bus when I was a kid. I remember the ride as being very long, very boring, and very stinky. And while I was probably exaggerating the long and boring parts (my ride lasted about 15 minutes) I now know that I wasn’t imagining the stink…

A recent Yale University study found that children who ride a school bus are exposed to up to 15 times more particulate pollution than average. Researchers estimate that this increased exposure is due to the idling and queuing of school buses. In other words, as school buses line up and wait in front of the school, they fill up with harmful (and stinky) particulate pollution that will stay with the kids throughout their ride.

That’s bad news for the 24 million American children who ride a school bus each day. Unfortunately, bus idling is so common simply because most people haven’t thought about it yet. Or they think the bus engines need to “warm up” in order to operate effectively. But that’s simply not the case. In fact, car gurus now agree that allowing a bus’ engine to idle causes more wear and tear on internal parts than driving. And school bus idling is not just terrible for human health, it’s also a source of environmental pollution, and a huge waste of gas!

So, what can you do to make sure your child is safe? Make sure your school district has a policy in place to ban bus idling. If not, talk to your school administrators about creating a policy. Check out the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean School Bus USA project for tips on educating your school about the costs of bus idling in human health and wasted gas, and information that debunks the most common idling myths.

Don’t take no for an answer on this one.

Read more from Jenn in her book, The Green Parent: A Kid-Friendly Guide to Environmentally-Friendly Livingor her blog The Green Parent.

Original 5 Minutes for Going Green post.

6 Responses to No Idling!
  1. Jimmy Cracked-Corn
    August 20, 2008 | 9:17 pm

    Much of the school year in this part of the country is so cold that turning the bus off for even 5 minutes would have near or below freezing temperatures back inside the cabin. Just knowing that 75 degree heat is a key turn away is far too much temptation on a frigid winter morning.

  2. Jenn (The Green Parent)
    August 20, 2008 | 9:25 pm

    Thanks for your comment Jimmy Cracked-Corn!

    Actually, the EPA has addressed this very issue. According to their site ( newer buses already have the technology in place to use an axillary heater to warm the passenger compartment rather than running the engine. If your school district has older buses, they can retrofit them with the devices (if they can afford it!) Just a thought!

  3. Jimmy Cracked-Corn
    August 21, 2008 | 12:01 am

    That is a very interesting article. An additional $2500 per bus up front would be a tough sell, but it would pay off in time.

  4. Janice (5 Minutes for Mom)
    August 21, 2008 | 12:59 am

    WONDERFUL info Jenn! My nephews take the school bus. Our district doesn’t have them. But I am glad now that I read this article.

    Won’t it be wonderful when these issues are eventually addressed and improvements and changes are made.

    THANKS for enlightening us. :)

  5. dh
    August 21, 2008 | 11:31 am

    There’s another issue to the idling problem that most kids and adults don’t consider or see. Middle schoolers and high schoolers aren’t waiting at the stops when the bus arrives. My son is outside waiting on the bus. We’re one of the first stops, and we’re back off the road, surrounded by trees. So we make sure we’re waiting on the bus, or on the way to the bus, so it doesn’t have to wait on us. No matter what the weather, and it does get cold (20 degrees) and wet somedays. However, many kids with houses close to the road wait inside their houses until the bus has stopped and honked for them. The bus idles and waits while they stroll – slowwwwwwly out to the bus. It’s the I’m king of the world because I’m a teenager syndrome. The bus comes earlier and earlier for the kids on the start end of the route to accomodate the strollers. I’ve sat behind the school bus while it waits on these kids. Not only is it annoying and inconsiderate, but 15 minutes of wasted gas and air pollution every day on the bus route. How much is that costing us?

  6. […] related to school, this great post encourages us to contact schools and urge them to adopt a no idling policy for their school buses. […]