Talk about clearing the air, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced a voluntary initiative designed to give fleets financial incentives for implementing technologies to reduce long-term engine idling and to learn more about how the technologies reduce emissions and save fuel. Industry organizations are being invited to administer the program, and participating carriers will get to choose the equipment that best suits their operation.
The new EPA program is called the “Idling Initiative — Idle Reduction Demonstration Projects to Reduce Emissions and Fuel Consumption from Long-Duration Idling Trucks and Locomotives.” It grew, in part, out of a series of EPA discussions with truck fleets over the past two years.
“We went on a ‘listening tour’ to find out why fleets are not implementing the idling reduction solutions already available,” explains an EPA spokesperson. “Fleet managers listed a number of perceived obstacles, but the major one was the up-front cost of the equipment.
“Based upon this input, we developed a grant program to help offset the cost of installing idling-reduction systems on trucks. The program is technology-neutral, however. Each fleet can choose which system will work best for them, whether it is an auxiliary power unit, a generator, an inverter-charger paired with an electrical HVAC system, or something else.”
The initiative is designed to demonstrate the cost-effectiveness of idling reduction solutions. Fleets will receive funds to help them offset a portion of the cost of installing idling reduction equipment on some of their vehicles. Then they will be asked to measure the cost savings over a three-month period and project those savings over an entire year. In year two, the fleets will be asked to reinvest the money they saved on additional idling-reduction technology for more of their vehicles.
“This isn't a corporate welfare program,” notes EPA. “It requires companies to participate financially as well.”
Not-for-profit organizations involved in transportation or air quality issues are being invited to submit proposals to administer the $200,000 in grant money. The deadline for proposals is Sept. 23, 2002. “This grant amount is rather small,” says EPA, “but it's an experimental grant. If this program is as successful as we think it will be, EPA will consider continuing the project with additional funds and program support.”
The current project focuses only on mobile equipment that is actually mounted on vehicles, as opposed to fixed systems installed at truck stops or in other parking facilities. “We don't want to overlook companies that do not utilize truck stops,” notes the EPA. “All fleets, private and for-hire, are eligible to participate, but those operating in areas where air quality is a particular problem or within communities of concern where poor air quality is causing a disproportionate amount of harm are the best candidates for the program.
“There is so much for everyone to learn here,” they continue. “How will the trucking industry react to this type of voluntary project? How well can we can work together? Will fleets realize significant cost savings? We plan to publicize the data from the project so that we can all examine the results together.”
Don't pass this up. For those of us who have groused for years about the need for collaborative government/industry efforts versus regulation, this new initiative offers a real opportunity to demonstrate trucking's willingness to support federal agency attempts to create win-win situations. If it succeeds, it may signal the start of a new era of cooperation between industry and government, in which everyone stands to benefit.
[Editor's note: To learn more, go to www.epa.gov/otaq/rfp.htm or call EPA's Paul Bubbosh at 202-564-9322.]