Skip to content
-15.6 °Cforecast >
Mainly Sunny

Vehicle idling restriction to be shortened to 2 minutes

Council amends proposed idling limit to two minutes after administration recommended one-minute restriction.
Vehicle exhaust
Thunder Bay city council approved restricting vehicle idling to two minutes from the previous five-minute allowance at their meeting on Monday, May 14, 2018. (Matt Vis,

THUNDER BAY – The city will have tighter restrictions on how long vehicles should run while not in motion, even though idling isn’t clearly defined in the bylaw.

Thunder Bay city council on Monday night approved an amended revision to its existing anti-idling regulations, lowering the allowed time to two minutes from the previous five minutes. The new restriction would not be in effect when the temperature is hotter than 27C or colder than 0C.

City administration had proposed a one-minute limit, following a recommendation made by local physician Dr. Nicki Wilberforce at a meeting earlier this year.

Coun. Rebecca Johnson, who instead put forward the two-minute amendment, said she didn’t think 60 seconds would be palatable.

“I just feel going from five to one is an extreme,” Johnson said.

There was some confusion around the council table when administration was asked exactly what constitutes idling.

“Idling isn’t defined in our bylaw so I couldn’t give you a specific definition other than a stationary vehicle running,” city licensing and enforcement manager James Coady said.

Coun. Iain Angus, the meeting’s chair, turned to Wikipedia to read its definition of idling.

The city’s idling provisions, which is included in the 2005 noise bylaw, prohibits “operation of an engine or motor, in or on, any vehicle or item of attached auxiliary equipment, for a continuous period of more than five minutes, while such vehicle is stationary.”

“I’m thinking idling, all those cars in the morning going in the coffee shops, people waiting as a train goes across Memorial Avenue. Are they idling?” Coun. Brian McKinnon asked.

Coady acknowledged the existing five-minute restriction had been difficult to enforce and would be done on a complaint basis.

“The situations (McKinnon) described like stopped at a red light or in a line for coffee or stopped for a train, I would have to say we would have to be reasonable about any enforcement we would apply to any restriction,” Coady said.

“We’re really talking about issues with people running their vehicle for a half hour to warm it up, sitting in their driveway or workplace for no reason other than the convenience.”

The bylaw does not apply to vehicles or equipment that require an engine or motor running to carry out basic functions, such as the operation of concrete trucks, lift platforms, refuse compactors and heat exchange systems.

Johnson called city staff “the worst offenders” for idling.

“I do think our fleet division within the city has done a lot of work in recent years heightening awareness around the need to turn vehicles off when they don’t absolutely need to be on,” city general manager of emergency services and development Mark Smith said.

“Our drivers are quite responsible when it comes to not idling any more than necessary. I’m quite confident that’s the case.”

Coun. Andrew Foulds, who was in favour of the one-minute restriction, was the only vote against the amendment. The revised bylaw was subsequently passed unanimously.