EPA's Diesel Emissions Regulations: Truck pricing, reliability impacts over two decades

EPA's Diesel Emissions Regulations survey report cover
The new report follows a survey of Overdrive readers conducted in early 2024.

When Overdrive's emissions-regulations survey went out to email-newsletter subscribers early in 2024, the topic struck a nerve with owner-operators and small fleet owners. Response from survey takers was immediate and in large numbers, particularly when it came to the question of the Environmental Protection Agency's two decades' worth of stiffening rules and those regs' indirect impacts on the price and reliability of Class 8 trucks.

Viewpoint on small-business trucking impacts trended decidedly negative: 

  • 65% of survey respondents noted maintenance headaches generally compounding with each successive round of emissions regulations, and 60% said diagnosis of particular equipment problems at their outset was more and more difficult. 
  • Just 6% of respondents earmarked ongoing improvements in maintenance for emissions equipment since the diesel particulate filter's introduction with 2007-spec engines.
  • 65% of survey respondents, furthermore, flagged the pain of pricing impacts of emissions regs as principal to rising business difficulty.  

With the next round of EPA regulations taking effect with the 2027 model year, when ultra-low NOx standards are expected to usher in new aftertreatment heaters from some manufacturers, survey results offer an indication of the potential impacts on small-business truckers. 

Scott Pearson, chairman of the American Truck Dealers trade group and president of Peterbilt of Atlanta, said he expects the 2027 NOx standards to have a significant impact on pricing, not only given new hardware that will come with the trucks, but also the cost of R&D for that hardware. Another factor in the EPA's 2027 rule is that emissions-related warranties from OEMs are required for longer periods -- yet another regulatory aspect baked in to the cost of a truck. 

An April 2024 report from ACT Research suggests experts are estimating the cost of the 2027 mandate at around $30,000 per Class 8 truck. 

With that in mind, Pearson and others in the industry, including ACT Research, expect a significant pre-buy of trucks in advance of 2027 emissions rules coming into play. Cautioning that he's not necessarily an expert on market futures, Pearson looked back at previous EPA emissions mandates, asking the question, "Were there pre-buys associated with some of those? Yes, there were." 

The 2027 low-NOx rule he judged as "being fairly unprecedented in its scope and its depth of change. ... And I think the cost roll-up that we'll see on this one will be as big or bigger than the cost roll-ups on those prior ones."

Response to Overdrive's survey was large enough to allow for statistically significant comparison of new-equipment costs and the inflation rate for the wider economy since the turn of the century. It seems certain the price of a new Class 8 diesel has outpaced the broader inflation rate over that time, but by how much? The results might surprise you, and could inform expectations for more inflation to come. 

Find results in the report, which you can download via the button below. There, also examine reliability reputations of various generations of diesel trucks, organized by model year and corresponding roughly to the emissions spec of the engine, useful for prospective used-truck buyers this year and beyond.

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