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Overdrive Staff | November 01, 2010

Proposal: Slash emissions, fuel use

The Obama administration on Oct. 25 proposed the first-ever national fuel economy and greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction standards on medium- and heavy-duty trucks and buses. They are intended to achieve up to a 20 percent reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and fuel consumption in combination tractors by the 2018 model year.

The proposal, affecting trucks in model years 2014-2018, would provide a strong incentive for truck makers to use only the most aerodynamic designs.

The proposal by the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration sets out standards for three categories of trucks: combination tractors; heavy-duty pickups and vans; and vocational vehicles.

Engine and vehicle standards for combination tractors would begin in the 2014 model year. EPA and NHTSA are proposing differentiated GHG emissions and fuel economy standards for nine combination tractor subcategories based on weight class, cab type and roof height. So there are separate standards for Class 7 day cabs, Class 8 day cabs and Class 8 sleeper caps in each of the following configurations: low roof, mid roof and high roof.

For vocational vehicles, the agencies are proposing engine and vehicle standards starting in the 2014 model year that would achieve up to a 10 percent reduction in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by 2018 model year.

EPA says an owner-operator could pay for technology upgrades in a new heavy-duty truck within a year and save up to $74,000 over the truck’s useful life. Payback on lower-mileage trucks would require up to five years.

Less optimistic about the overall economic impact was Kyle Treadway, chairman of American Truck Dealers and owner of Kenworth Sales Co. While “dealers support improving fuel economy,” he said, the proposal “is expected to add thousands of dollars to the cost per truck. We are concerned that this could price some buyers out of the market.”

The American Trucking Associations’ backs the national fuel economy standard for trucks as a means of reducing carbon emissions as opposed to less attractive alternatives, such as mandating use of alternative fuels.

At a recent ATA meeting, Bill Kozek, general manager of Kenworth Truck Co., said the proposal means buyers will have fewer spec’ing options. Truck makers will have to shift more toward aerodynamic styling, meaning the days of the long-hood conventional – at least in over-the-road applications – may be numbered, he said. “These regulations will be the death of the W900L,” Kozek said at the ATA meeting.

Some truck and engine suppliers are opposed to the notion that the engine and vehicle are regulated separately and favor a total vehicle standard. Moreover, there is no credit given for engine downsizing, noted Anthony Greszler, a vice president for Volvo Powertrain North America.

— Avery Vise n



Bill would mandate recorders

The trucking industry has a mixed response to a congressional bill that would require electronic on-board recorders on all trucks.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association opposes the measure, but some carriers support it.

On Sept. 29, Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) introduced the Commercial Driver Compliance Improvement Act, which would mandate the devices for commercial vehicles. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) co-sponsored the bill, which would require EOBRs provide real-time tracking of a vehicle’s location and enable law enforcement to access this information during roadside inspections.

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