Today’s long-haul trucks are 98% cleaner than the tractors that hauled freight across America 30 years ago. But that efficiency isn’t enough for industry regulators, who are pushing the trucking industry into more expensive equipment and technologies that OEMs are still perfecting. Decarbonization is one of several movements that federal and local regulators are working on this year.
“When you're looking at emissions and equipment standards that are going on across the country—whether it's California or whether it's federal EPA-based—there are concerns,” David Heller, VP of safety and government affairs for Truckload Carriers Association, said during a FleetOwner Pre-Trip video interview. “Specifically in the long-haul trucking sector, because, guess what, you've put a regulation out there that is prescribing carriers to start changing their fleet over to these emission-friendly pieces of equipment that don't exist yet.”
He said it’s a problem that there is no true zero-emission equipment on the market for long-haul fleets. But Heller said TCA members want to be sure the lower-emission vehicles are reliable for freight transportation. Congressional Republicans are attempting to hold up the more stringent heavy-duty emissions regulations.
“You’re talking about an investment in equipment that is a lot of money to lay out,” he added. “We want to do that in the right way to make sure we have equipment that functionally works—and isn’t parked on the roadside with freight that has to get transferred to another truck. They’re literally putting the cart before the horse on this rulemaking without having everything properly discovered, invented, and tried before putting the rulemaking out there.”
More stringent emissions standards and other regulations could reshape the trucking and freight industries during the next two years, as the divided Congress is unlikely to be as productive as the first two years of President Joe Biden’s administration.
The Department of Labor is trying to reverse a Trump administration rule that made it easier for businesses to classify workers as independent contractors, such as owner-operators who haul freight for other carriers.
The Biden administration believes its new rule would preserve fundamental worker rights and provide consistency for regulated entities. Several trucking associations have registered concern over these changes upending the long-standing role independent contractors play within freight movement in the U.S.
“There’s not a truckload carrier out there that didn’t start because somebody went out and bought one truck and started delivering freight,” Heller noted. “This is the business model. This is the American dream. A majority of the industry started this way, and it is a threat to that business model—whether it is the state of California with AB5 or the Department of Labor’s rule.”
Watch the complete first edition of the 2023 FleetOwner Pre-Trip video series above, where Heller gives more insight on other topics such as speed limiters, safety technology, the federal Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse changes, hair testing, and more.