The Cost of Clean Air

The Cost of Clean Air

The 2007 EPA emission standards have set into motion a push and pull between fleet owners, who are trying to make sure new standards don’t economically damage their business

The 2007 EPA emission standards have set into motion a push and pull between fleet owners, who are trying to make sure new standards don’t economically damage their business and the environmental community, which aims to ensure all engines run cleaner.

“In 2006, fleets bought everything they could prior to the 2007 regulations primarily because of the cost of the ’07 engines, and the increased projected operating costs, ” Gary Petty, president & CEO of The National Private Truck Council (NPTC), told FleetOwner.

While many have pushed for retrofitting old engines to meet the new standards, fleets are aware that it’s not economically beneficial to do so, and have resisted any change in that direction. “One of the challenges fundamental to this issue is that the truck industry is motivated by profitability, and retrofitting doesn’t give you freedom from tolls or other financial benefits,” Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the Diesel Technology Forum, told FleetOwner. “The Clean Air Act doesn’t have the authority to make manufacturers do anything.”

That is true in 49 of the 50 states, but California has been a noteworthy exception to the rule. By invoking state health and safety codes, California has required 100% of diesel fuel imported and produced in the state to be Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel (ULSD) since June 1, 2006—the rest of the country has until June 1, 2010 to comply. However, it doesn’t appear likely any other states will adopt these rules. “No other state could adopt what California is doing—although other states may try—because of the legal challenges involved,” said Schaeffer.

The environmental community has continued their efforts to make the trucking industry more energy-efficient through SmartWay, a federal initiative focused on clean air solutions that can be implemented without adversely affecting a company’s bottom line.

SmartWay’s website describes the program as “a voluntary partnership between various freight industry sectors and EPA that establishes incentives for fuel efficiency improvements and greenhouse gas emissions reductions. By 2012, this initiative aims to reduce between 33 - 66 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and up to 200,000 tons of nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions per year. At the same time, the initiative will result in fuel savings of up to 150 million barrels of oil annually. There are three primary components of the program: creating partnerships, reducing all unnecessary engine idling, and increasing the efficiency and use of rail and intermodal operations.”

While it is unlikely that fleets will voluntarily fully retrofit their engines, the early success of the SmartWay program, with UPS and Fed Ex among the hundreds of companies involved, is an indication fleets are becoming aware they can clean the air without emptying their pockets.

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