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Thanks to a 2019 New York City law, it’s illegal for commercial vehicles to be left running without a driver. As you can probably imagine, drivers for delivery services like FedEx and Amazon leave their vehicles running unattended all the time. Additionally, the city made it possible for citizens to report an illegally idling vehicle. One man took advantage of the chance to make some extra cash. That’s how the New York City anti-idling law resulted in a $125,000 payday for one “idle warrior.”

One man made $125K thanks to the New York City anti-idling law

Traffic in Times Square New York City - anti-idling laws in NYC made idle warrior a huge payday
NYC traffic looks pretty bland | Gary Hershorn/Getty Images

According to NBC New York, one man has already made over six figures from reporting idling commercial vehicles. When NYC created the law, so was a citizen reporting program with an included reward. Moreover, anyone can find an idling vehicle and record it for three minutes. If it’s in a school zone, you only need to record it for one minute. Once recorded, upload the footage to the city’s Department of Environmental Protection and an affidavit. The vehicle’s owner will be fined up to $250 or more, while the reporting citizen earns one-quarter of each fine.

For some people who received the name “idle warriors,” it’s become a massive financial haul. For example, New Yorker and idle warrior Donald Blair reported enough idling trucks and buses in the city to earn $55,000. In addition, he’s owed another $70,000, which is on the way. Blair’s $125,000 payday is the most a single New Yorker has earned. As a whole, the city has received $2.3 million in idling fines.

“If you want to change someone’s behavior, the best way to do it is to hit them in the pocket.”

Donald Blair, NYC idle warrior.

Which companies owe the most idling fines in NYC?

Amazon owes New York City a lot of money in fines for idling their commercial vehicles on the streets.
Amazon Prime Delivery Truck | Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

NBC New York spoke with George Packenham, another group member of the idle warriors. As a result, he’s earned around $40,000 and is one of roughly 60 members in the group. Packenham says he thinks the law made a difference, as he doesn’t see as many idling buses or trucks. However, it’s frustrating that many large companies don’t pay their fines.

For example, NYC City Hall says there are about $8 million in unpaid idling vehicle fines right now. By a wide margin, Amazon owes the most and hasn’t paid up. In addition, FedEx and UPS owe the next most money to the city after Amazon. As you can imagine, delivery drivers don’t tend to turn off their vehicles when they run inside a building. NYC Comptroller Brad Lander says it’s “outrageous” and thinks stricter enforcement for paying the fines is required. He even went as far as to suggest impounding commercial vehicles from the offender’s fleet until the tickets are paid.

CompanyIdling fines owed to NYC

New York City calls its anti-idling law a huge success

Overall, the city is pleased with its decision to fine idling commercial vehicles. Furthermore, the city’s Department of Environmental Protection says nearly 11,500 idling tickets were issued last year. That’s more than double the 5,000 issued in 2019 before the law. NYC Council legislative attorney Samara Swanston wrote the anti-idling law and said it works because New Yorkers get rewarded for reporting the idling vehicles.

According to NBC New York, the law is personal to Swanston. She lost her husband and daughter to asthma attacks and believes they’d still be with her if the air were cleaner. “I think they’d be happy we were doing the right thing for New York City. We can do better, New York City,” Swanston said.

Will the big payday attract new idle warriors?

Does this sound like something you’d do to make some extra cash? If other cities around the country adopt a similar law, people everywhere could start taking money from massive companies like Amazon. Moreover, it seems like a great idea to hold companies accountable while preventing the city from taking all the money. Nothing incentivizes citizens to help quite like giving them $125,000 in a few years.


You Can Make Thousands of Dollars Reporting Idling Trucks