Washington Insider
Why is that new truck more like a myth than a dream?

By Ryan S. Bowley, OOIDA Director of Legislative Affairs

Growing up, I heard about the days when bread cost a nickel and milk was a quarter. I saw the impact of price increases as allowances bought fewer candy bars.

Today, truckers think back to when a new truck cost below $100,000. With prices going up every year, the memories of that time become more like myths.

What is behind these price increases? Is inflation or the price of steel putting that dream of buying a new truck further out of reach?

While these play a part, the major drivers behind these increases are decades worth of ever-increasing diesel engine emission standards issued by the Environmental Protection Agency.

These regulations covered particulate matter, hydrocarbons, and nitrogen oxides. According to EPA estimates, they have resulted in trucks that are 98 percent cleaner than those manufactured 20 years ago.

Hidden in the tiny print of the regulations are the costs they have forced truckers and small carriers to pay. According to data collected by OOIDA, small-business truckers shelled out on average $22,000 more for the same general model truck in 2009 than they would have paid in 2006. A truck that cost $125,000 in 2006 cost $147,000 or more by 2009.

Those figures are confirmed by the manufacturers. Martin Daum, president and CEO of Daimler Trucks North America, was quoted in 2010 as saying that the price of a truck had increased by $20,000 over the past six years, solely because of EPA mandates.

While trucks cost more, they aren’t carrying any more freight and they come with a host of other challenges, all unconsidered by the EPA. Based on truck stop stories and surveys by OOIDA and others, it’s clear that these new, cleaner trucks are less reliable and burn more fuel.

Small-business truckers recognize the value of improving our nation’s air quality, but when they are forced to pay continually escalating costs for continually escalating standards, there comes a time when truckers start questioning when it will ever end.

With the 2010 engine standards in place, truckers might have thought that a much-needed break in costly environmental mandates had come. There was no way the EPA could squeeze more reductions in particulate matter out of a diesel engine.

Never wanting to stop regulating, however, the EPA found a new enemy – greenhouse gas emissions and fuel usage.

The mandates from this most recent regulation, issued in August, will add at least $6,000 to the cost of a new truck starting in 2014. These are real costs, while the benefits of these rules – reductions in greenhouse gases and fuel usage – amount to barely any national impact.

EPA also claims that trucking will see a $73 billion benefit from the rules due to improved fuel economy. Yet this is the same agency that spent a decade writing rules and mandating technology – and ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel – that reduced fuel economy. You don’t need a calculator to figure out that something just isn’t adding up here.

What has added up for truckers is the cost of a new truck. This is conveniently left out of the computer models and spreadsheets that EPA uses to develop new environmental mandates and to hide behind when their prescriptions are questioned.

OOIDA is fighting to change this before EPA kicks off the next round of rulemaking for the 2018 model year. Regulatory reform legislation that forces agencies to take into account these “indirect impacts” when they consider new rules is long overdue, but is set for consideration by Congress in the fall.

OOIDA will be engaged in helping move this legislation forward, telling the story of how regulations like these have hurt small-business trucking. Members should take this opportunity to tell their story about how regulations turned their dream of a new truck into nothing more than a myth. LL