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Government takes short-sighted approach

March 10, 2009
For fleets interested in pursuing hybrid technologies, now is the time. While money may be tight, fleets with a firm grasp of their financial future can take advantage of several funding options available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment ...

For fleets interested in pursuing hybrid technologies, now is the time. While money may be tight, fleets with a firm grasp of their financial future can take advantage of several funding options available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

But, like so many government programs, taking advantage is not easy.

The biggest discount probably comes in the form of hybrid vehicles. The program allocates more than $20,000 – possibly up to 25% of the total vehicle cost according to Peterbilt – toward the purchase of hybrid medium- or heavy-duty trucks.

But that’s just the start. According to the NAFA Fleet Management Assn., among the eligible projects are EPA or CARB verified and/or certified retrofit technologies and engines, engine repowers, engine rebuilds, or engine replacements and EPA-verified idle reduction technologies such as auxiliary power units.

In all, there is $300 million for Diesel Emission Reduction Act grants available.

That’s great. But you only have until the end of March to take advantage. And, you must be a public or non-private fleet.

Talk about restrictions.

The money is allocated, so the government easily could have allowed the program to continue until the funds ran out. It chose not to, instead putting a 30-day expiration date on the funding.

Even more troublesome is the difficulty a large number of fleets will have getting the grants. According to the EPA, the grants are available to public and non-profit fleets. That accounts for only about one-quarter of the trucking industry. In order to take advantage of the grants, one of the 633,600 private fleets in the country, almost 75% of the industry, would need to partner with a non-profit, who would submit the request.

Which non-profit is going to be willing to help out a private company right now? Probably not many. Given the restrictions, I am anxious to see how much stimulus this funding will actually create.

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