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How New GHG Emissions Regulations will Impact the Commercial Trucking Industry

Posted by G. Christianson on Feb 4, 2016 9:00:00 AM

Commercial trucking

Trucking is a dirty business, in a physical sense. Commercial trucking burns millions of gallons of diesel a year, and that in turn means pollution in the form of greenhouse gases, or GHG. Now the Environmental Protection Agency is taking steps to cut down the GHG emissions across the board, and it will change the trucking industry in some surprising ways.

Changing Rules

The change is simple, on paper; most trucks average five to six miles per gallon. The EPA would like to raise that to nine miles per gallon, at a minimum. As any fleet manager can tell you, though, turning paper into practice is trickier than it seems. Even the government's own summary of the rules calls them "ambitious but achievable."

This is actually the second phase of the operation. The first phase was seen as modest but had surprisingly good results. Then again, fleets were asked to do little more than change their tires and adjust a few things here and there. This new standard is going to require a lot more work, and potentially a lot more money.

For its part, the government argues that increasing fuel efficiency by a third will make the more expensive trailers cost effective. They believe that fuel savings alone will pay for the difference within two years, and then fleets can enjoy the cost effectiveness of these diesel-sipping trucks. Similarly, there's been an economic push for cleaner, more fuel-efficient diesel by fleets and their purchasing departments. Since 2010, estimates say that the industry has delivered a 5% increase in fuel efficiency.

Still, there's a pretty big gap. How are fleets going to bridge it?

Changing Fleets

Commercial trucking

Trucks will still be on the road, but they'll burn less fuel.

The good news is that they won't have to find a lot of fuel efficiency tomorrow. The rules will be phased in slowly -- 2018 for trailers and 2021 for trucks -- so there's time to do research and figure out just what needs to be done.

The toughest change is going to be deciding what parts of the fleet stay on the road and which are getting retired. While older trucks can be retrofitted for better fuel efficiency, not all of the older parts of the fleet will be able to meet the quotas. Deciding where and when to replace the trucks that have to go off the road will likely be the trickiest decision most fleets make.

Another question will be fuel and how to burn it. Diesel engines, due to their construction, don't necessarily need refined petroleum fuel to operate; synthetic diesel and biodiesel are two commonly discussed options. Again, though, trucks will need to either be specially built to burn these new diesels, or retrofitted in order to use them. In theory, fuel could even be ignored altogether in favor of battery power in the case of short-range hauling.

Finally, there's the question of cost. None of this will be cheap, whether fleets buy new or retrofit, and fleets will need to weigh the cost against the cost savings over time for any solution. That said, it's best to start now; the last thing your fleet needs is new emissions standards taking it off the road. If you're looking to upgrade your automotive electrical systems, start with our wire and cable products.

Topics: Industry Updates, Fleet Management, Regulatory


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