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What Do 2018 Emissions Standards Mean For Fleets And Drivers?

Feb 27, 2017

After years of research and debates with industry players, the federal government finally issued standards for emission reduction and fuel efficiency to happen within the 2021 and 2027 model years. The United States government has always been quite radical about its goals for the country. Remember when President Kennedy talked about going to the moon within 10 years? It was not at all easy, but America – actually, the whole world – reaped technological benefits from those missions.

These Phase 2 standards were brought about by the National Highway Traffic Safety Admission (NHTSA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in an effort to regulate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and fuel consumption – petroleum especially- which are conditions that are characteristic of heavy-duty vehicles. These technologies are believed not only to be great for the environment but also cost effective.

The adoption of these standards follows the pre-existing Phase 1 GHG regulations that are set to materialize in 2018 and will apply to trailers pulled by Class 8 trucks. Some companies have already achieved these standards. A study of carbon emissions by trailers has led the NHTSA and EPA to conclude that trailers contribute significantly to carbon pollution emissions and high fuel consumption.

diesel emissions

What are the steps to be taken?

Both the EPA and NHTSA say that the standards can be met through:

  • Engine and transmission improvements
  • idle reduction technologies
  • weight reduction
  • lower rolling resistant tires
  • automatic tire inflation systems
  • adoption of aerodynamic devices

The goal, they say, is ambitious, achievable, affordable and flexible, and we can only wait and see how the implementation will occur over the course of the next few years.

The most recent standards, from 2004-2010 were achieved through implementation of exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) and selective catalytic reduction (SCR) together with the injection of diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) into the exhaust stream.

What vehicles will be affected?

The document which spells out the new standards target engine and trailer manufacturers to meet their target. These are for Class 4 through Class 8 vehicles, including:

  • big rigs
  • various large trucks
  • delivery and passenger vans
  • school buses
  • work trucks
  • long-haul tractors with trailers

The expectation is that increasingly over time, heavy-duty trucks will be 2.5% more efficient each year, from 2017 to 2021. The document outlines three efficiency milestones. First in 2021, then in 2024 and lastly in 2027. By 2027, all tractor-trailers, vans and school buses are expected to achieve 25% lower carbon emission relative to the standards today.

Sounds quite simple, doesn’t it? With the recent standards, it was expected that the cost of the targeted vehicles would go up. However, what was not planned for was the lower fuel economy, reduced reliability and the new truck’s higher operating costs. The previous standards caused a disruption in the market with the unanticipated pre-buys of trucks and subsequent sales cliffs. We do not yet know what the new standards have in store for us, but the agencies are coming up with regulations that are wearier of specific truck models, manufacturer’s sales and a gradual adoption of the regulations.

road sign: changes ahead

What will be the overall effect of these regulations?

Most notable will be the increase in the cost of purchasing these trucks. It is estimated that a large truck that complies with the regulations will cost about $14,000.00 more. However, this is not anticipated to set off truck owners as they are expected to recoup the cost within a few years of operating the trucks. The EPA states that the owner of the long-haul trucks will only have to wait two years to offset the cost due to new fuel-efficient technology.

The EPA also states that compared to the original proposal, the final program will achieve a further 10% reduction in GHG emissions and fuel consumption. The new rules will see CO2 emissions reduced by up to 5% for tractor engines and 4% for vocational engines. This is big news, considering heavy-duty trucks have been found to account for 20% of GHG emissions in the US. Fleet owners may focus on the positive environmental benefits of their vehicles and later reap economic benefits in the future.

The new regulations will see manufacturers coming up with new, innovative technologies to abide by them. This is good for the technology sector which is developing every second. Major developments are expected to arise considering manufacturers have been given the freedom to come up with ways on how to achieve these results. They have not been bound to any particular technologies. We expect that truck companies will come up with innovative solutions geared towards:

  • Improving engine operation efficiency
  • Decreasing the amount of fuel consumed per unit of work
  • Increase the viability of trucks through decreased costs of maintenance, reduced troubleshooting time and downtime
  • Educating truck drivers about how to drive more efficiently to save more fuel, for example how to maneuver hills

All the above are geared towards following the set standards while concurrently improving the fuel economy such that fleet owners can still enjoy the benefits associated with running their businesses. The regulations are not set to discourage fleet owners or drivers from their businesses but rather, to bring about positive change for everybody.

Investors are also set to make a killing by investing in research into new technologies of manufacturing trucks, therefore this is a ripe sector to look out for.

The American Trucking Association (ATA) has noted that the new regulations are a step in the right direction and fleets can largely benefit depending on their comfort level purchasing these new technologies. It stated that it would start working with its members and federal agencies to ensure the objectives of the regulations are met. Overall, we see that fleet owners will experience significant fuel savings and quick payback periods for fleets. They should look forward to considerable savings in the very near future.

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