R.I. Bus Co. Busted for Excessive Idling

By ecoRI News staff

To settle the Environmental Protection Agency’s claims of excessive diesel idling in Connecticut and Rhode Island, a group of bus companies will commit to reduce idling from its school bus fleet of 7,500 operating in 16 states, including Rhode Island.

The settlement between the EPA and Ocean State Transit and STA of Connecticut, both subsidiaries of Student Transportation of America (STA), will address excessive school bus idling and reduce schoolchildren’s exposure to diesel pollution. Under the settlement, the companies will pay a $35,000 penalty and perform environmental projects valued at $131,000.

In fall 2011, EPA officials observed school buses idling for extended periods of time in East Greenwich and South Kingstown, and at locations in Danbury, Naugatuck, Higganum, Stamford (two locations) and Groton, Conn. Officials observed some buses idling for more than 30 minutes. The state idling regulations in question, which are enforceable by EPA, limit idling in Connecticut to 3 minutes and 5 in Rhode Island.

Under the settlement, the companies will implement a national training and management program to prevent excessive idling from STA’s entire fleet of school buses. Through this program, STA drivers, dispatchers and managers will be trained to comply with state and local anti-idling regulations and to avoid excessive idling, according to the EPA. STA will require all of its supervisors to monitor idling in school bus lots, will post anti-idling signs in areas where drivers congregate, and will notify the school districts it serves of its anti-idling policy.

STA of Connecticut also will replace nine older school buses with new buses that are equipped with pollution controls. Ocean State Transit will install GPS units and tracking systems on 117 of its buses to facilitate tracking and eliminate excessive idling.

Idling diesel engines emit pollutants that can cause or aggravate a variety of health problems including asthma and other respiratory diseases, and the fine particles in diesel exhaust are a likely human carcinogen, according to the EPA. Diesel exhaust not only contributes to air quality problems, but more direct exposure also can cause lightheadedness, nausea, sore throat and coughing.

Idling school buses consume about a half-gallon of fuel an hour. Calculations indicate that by eliminating excess idling in its fleet, STA would annually reduce its fuel use by 135,000 gallons and avoid emitting about 3 million pounds of carbon dioxide, according to the EPA.