A New York City clean-air program allows citizens to report idling commercial vehicles for a cut of the fines.
In as little as 3 minutes you could earn $87.50 or more.
The Citizen Air Complaint Program awards citizens in NYC for reporting commercial trucks that are parked and idling for more than three minutes, or one minute if outside a school.
Those who report idling trucks with “clear video evidence” collect 25% of any fine against the truck and connected company.
Citizen reporters have to submit video evidence of over three minutes in length that shows the truck idling for over three minutes and the name of the owning company on the truck.
The clean-air program has significantly increased the number of complaints of idling trucks in NYC from just a handful pre-2018, when the program was created, to over 12,000 last year.
Idling vehicles in the United States collectively expel millions of tons of carbon dioxide each year. Researchers have estimated that eliminating excessive idling from commercial vehicles would have an impact similar to taking 5 million cars in the United States off the streets.
Several states have laws against excessive idling, but few have created programs like NYC that reward citizens for video evidence of idling trucks.
Some NYC citizen reporters have made up to $64,000 a year in rewards by simply paying attention on their daily commute to work and back.
As of now, there are around 20 citizen reporters responsible for submitting some 85% of idling complaints to the city of New York. However, these 20 have their work cut out for them as thousands of commercial trucks idle excessively throughout the city.
New York City paid over $720,000 in bounties last year alone and $1.1 million to citizen reporters since 2019. The city collected $2.4 million in fines reported as a part of the clean-air program last year, up 24% from when the program began in 2018.
Sound too good to be true? The program is far from perfect.
Several citizen clean-air reporters have revealed that bureaucracy, loopholes, waivers, and general disinterest by authorities have left numerous fines and penalties uncollected.
The city’s Department of Environmental Protection, which runs the clean-air reporting program, has a tendency to waive many reported violations for what many citizen reporters say are arbitrary reasons:
- the company name is not legible on the truck door, even though the license plate would reveal the owner.
- the truck's engine isn’t clearly audible in the video, even though smoke can often be seen rising from the exhaust pipe.
A deputy commissioner with the Department of Environment Protection said the system is still in its early stages, and would hopefully improve to process more claims, but the strict requirements for filing a complaint are necessary to successfully prosecute the claim later in court.
Before the clean-air program was introduced, a staff of one person would occasionally handle the task of reporting excessive idling complaints. Now, with thousands of complaints per year, a small staff of 14 works to process the continuous excessive idling reports.
This is perhaps why so few citizens have chosen to take advantage of this program. Some citizen reporters say they have been waiting for their claims to be processed for months, and although they’ve made the city of New York thousands of dollars, the citizen reporters have yet to see the total amount of their share.
Despite the drawbacks, you may want to get involved. Here are some details you need to know:
The following pieces of evidence are required to report an excessive idling complaint:
- A *time and date stamped video taken during the time of your observation that captures the truck or bus continuously idling for more than one (1) minute next to a K-12 school or more than three (3) minutes elsewhere. The sound of the idling engine must be clearly audible in the video. The video must also capture the license plate and the company information/logo of the vehicle.
- A *time and date stamped still picture or screengrab from the video that clearly shows the license plate of the vehicle. If the vehicle is a truck with a separate trailer, the license plate of the truck (cab) is needed.
- A *time and date stamped still picture or screengrab from the video that clearly shows the company name and address.
- A *time and date stamped still picture or screengrab from the video clearly showing the US Department of Transportation number of the vehicle where applicable.
- If the complaint is about a bus, a *time and date stamped still picture or screengrab from a weather agency that clearly shows the temperature was above 40℉ at the time of the observation.
- An affidavit or affirmation on a form prescribed by the department (form will be available when a complaint is submitted) pertaining to each individual complaint if the citizen will not be appearing for the hearing date for testimony.
For further information on the clean-air program and reporting guidelines, click here.
Will you be taking advantage of this program? Do you live in NYC, or are you a commuter looking to make extra cash to and from work? Let us know in the comments.