Idling Diaries: Part 1

Lael Goodman, our environmental justice program manager, shares her experience reporting truck and bus idling in North Brooklyn via the city’s Idling Complaint System.

I left our October 1st workshop, Idle Ca$h: Combatting Truck Idling, inspired to document idling trucks and buses. Now that I had a better understanding of the types of vehicles that could be reported (commercial trucks, vans, and passenger buses) and tips for making a successful complaint, I was ready to begin filming and start earning cash.

It did not take very long to find idling in North Brooklyn. On my daily walk to and from the North Brooklyn Neighbors office, I usually encounter an idling vehicle. Below, I detail my first three attempts to properly document an idler.

First Attempt
Location: Kent Avenue & North 5th Street

A few days after the workshop, I filmed a delivery truck for over three minutes and took photos of its license plate, the US DOT number, and one that included nearby street signs. I was very pleased with myself until I reviewed the evidence. I had forgotten to use the time and date stamp app. While I could have still submitted my evidence, the case may not have been strong enough to move forward.

Takeaway: Use the time/date stamp app.

Second Attempt
Location: Kent Avenue and North 1st Street

For weeks, trucks had lined up on the street outside work site near our office. Fed up with the idling noise, I took a time-stamped video of a truck which was waiting to be filled with contaminated soil. I stayed near the back of the truck so as not to attract notice. However, upon reviewing the evidence I had collected, I realized that the dominant motor in the video was the truck behind me, not the truck I was filming. I had not gotten the license plate or DOT number for that second truck. I counted it as another learning experience and kept my eyes peeled for the next infraction.

Takeaway: Stand near the front of the cab to ensure the engine idling is clearly audible.

Third Attempt
Location: Wythe Avenue & North 11th Street

During my third filming attempt, I noticed the truck had a Thermo-King branded unit on top of the cab. While the engine was definitely running, it was difficult to tell from the video whether the idling was coming from the engine or from the auxiliary unit. I also neglected to get a shot of the back of the truck to show that no lift gate was in operation (which would make the idling legal).

Takeaway: Film the vehicle from many angles. Refrigerated trucks may be more difficult.

NEXT UP: I make a satisfactory video and submit a NYC Idling Complaint.