Pennsylvania's Diesel-Powered Motor Vehicle Idling Act
The Pennsylvania Diesel-Powered Motor Vehicle Idling Act establishes idling restrictions for certain diesel-powered motor vehicles and imposes a penalty on drivers and owners of vehicles who violate the Act. The purpose of the Act is to reduce air pollution caused by the operation of diesel engines, so the Act also imposes requirements on those who own or control land where emissions are generated. The Act mandates that facility owners and operators may not allow violations of the Act on the property they own or operate and that they must erect and maintain permanent signs to inform drivers that idling is restricted. If idling restrictions of certain diesel-powered motor vehicles are unenforced, penalties may be issued to many different parties.
The Act applies to any location where a diesel-powered motor vehicle with a gross weight of 10,001 pounds or more engaged in commerce loads, unloads or parks. It also prohibits most regulated vehicles from idling for more than five minutes in any continuous 60 minute period. While the Act imposes this restriction on the owner and operator of the regulated vehicle, it also charges the owner and operator of the property where the idling occurs with the obligation of preventing a violation of the Act. For instance, the operator of a restaurant could be fined for allowing vendors and suppliers to idle regulated vehicles in excess of the time limits in the Act. The restaurant owner’s landlord also could be fined for the same conduct.
In addition, the Act requires the owner and operator of a location where regulated vehicles load or unload, or a location that provides 15 or more parking spaces for regulated vehicles, to erect and maintain a permanent sign on the property to inform drivers that idling is restricted. The sign must comply with the Pennsylvania Handbook of Approved Signs, which includes standards relating to the shape, color, dimensions, legends, application and placement of official signs. However, there are a few idling exemptions that property owners should be aware of in their attempt to comply with the law. The Act exempts vehicles that idle for the following reasons:
- To operate cargo refrigeration equipment
- To power work-related mechanical, safety or electrical operations
- Where the vehicle is armored and must idle while a person remains inside the vehicle to guard contents or while the vehicle is being loaded or unloaded
- When actively engaged in solid waste collection or collection of source-separated recyclable materials
- When equipped with “stationary idle reduction technology”
A violation of the Act is a summary offense punishable by a fine of no less than $150 and no more than $300, plus court costs. In addition, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection may issue orders and civil penalties as necessary to aid in the enforcement of the Act pursuant to the separate Pennsylvania Air Pollution Control Act. However, penalties for violations of the Act, even if issued under the authority of the Air Pollution Control Act, are capped at $1,000 per day for each violation.
Owners and operators of vehicles subject to the Act should review their operating procedures to ensure they comply with the Act, while commercial property owners and operators should examine whether they have a duty to erect the requisite signs on their properties. Landlords should also notify existing tenants of their duty to comply with the act to protect against liability, and should consider including appropriate indemnification clauses in leases to ensure tenant responsibility when the tenant is in control of the property or is the recipient of goods or services related to the idling regulated vehicles.