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The co$t of clean
The Environmental Protection Agency strictly regulates everything from your engines and exhaust systems to the fuel you put in your truck. How far will the agency go? If history is any indication, it’s time to rein in the EPA.

By David Tanner, senior editor

The U.S. Environmental Protection agency carried out 48 federal air-quality regulations between 1995 and 2010, and a number of them targeted heavy-duty trucks. Smack dab in the middle was the agency’s infamous “2007 Highway Rule” that clamped down on truck emissions, added thousands of dollars to the price of new vehicles, and changed trucking forever.

The EPA proposed its 2007 rule even before strict standards were to take effect in 2002, giving truck manufacturers and fuel refiners just a few years of lead time to ratchet up their reductions or face penalties.

OOIDA believes the EPA – and related agencies like CARB in California – has shown little regard for the economic impact of its rules on truckers, particularly small businesses.

The National Economic Research Associates, NERA, found that EPA considered the economic effects of its regulations on small businesses in just 11 of its 48 air-quality rules between 1995 and 2010.

The American Truck Dealers estimated that the EPA regulations from 2004 to 2010 added $21,000 to the cost of new trucks, up to five times higher than the EPA estimated.

While Congress has historically played a significant role in how the EPA operates, the White House has largely set the policy priorities for the agency since the mid-2000s. To say the agency has taken the ball and run with it would certainly be an understatement.

The Clean Air Act of 1970 created the EPA, just a few years after a California researcher began linking vehicle emissions to smog levels in Los Angeles. The ’70s saw Congress and the EPA crack down on leaded gasoline and set their sights on all things combustion.

How far will the agency go?

Following is a timeline of significant actions by the EPA and their effects on trucking.

1970 – Congress creates the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency via the Clean Air Act, charging the new agency with monitoring vehicle emissions and pollution.

1972-1975 – The first exhaust gas recirculation, EGR, appears on new cars; catalytic converters become commonplace; the U.S. begins phasing out leaded gasoline; and Congress enacts the first ever Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, standards for cars.

1977 – Congress amends the Clean Air Act for 1980 cars; regulators tip their hand that trucks and buses could soon follow.

1985 – EPA announces regulations for diesel truck and bus emissions for model year 1991.

1987 – Some engine manufacturers begin offering and installing “defeat devices” on trucks to offset a loss in fuel economy caused by emission control systems. EPA declares the defeat devices illegal.

1990 – Congress updates the Clean Air Act, setting the first benchmark to reduce sulfur content in diesel fuel starting in model year 1994.

1994 – The U.S. phases in “low-sulfur diesel” that contains 500 parts-per-million sulfur. This on-highway fuel for trucks becomes the norm until 2006.

July 1995 – The EPA and CARB propose a rule to reduce NOx and other emissions in heavy-duty vehicles.

May 1997 – EPA issues a document outlining the “emission control potential” for heavy trucks.

Oct. 21, 1997 – EPA issues a final rule to reduce emissions in 2004 trucks. The action promises to increase the price of new trucks by thousands of dollars.

1998 – EPA launches enforcement action against engine manufacturers and their “defeat devices.” Seven manufacturers pay a total of $83 million in civil penalties and agree to lower NOx emissions. A consent decree signed by the manufacturers will have unintended consequences in 2002 according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

December 2000 – EPA announces new rules on the horizon that will tighten emission controls for 2007 heavy-duty vehicles, engines and exhaust systems.

Jan. 18, 2001 – EPA publishes the Clean Air Highway Diesel Rule, known as the “2007 Highway Rule.” It targets a reduction in nitrogen oxide (NOx) and calls for sulfur content in diesel fuel to be reduced from 500 ppm to 15 ppm by mid-2006. The new fuel, ultra-low-sulfur diesel, will immediately add 5 cents to the cost of diesel. EPA estimates the cost to the trucking industry at $1,200 to $1,900 per vehicle.

October 2002 – Gearing up to meet the 2004 standards, truck manufacturers are cornered by the consent decree they signed in 1998 that calls for them to meet the standards 15 months early. Manufacturers say they will need another 18 to 24 months to comply, according to the GAO. An inevitable “pre-buy” ahead of the 2004 mandate reduces EPA’s estimated benefits for NOx and emission controls.

Feb. 9, 2004 – The EPA launches SmartWay, creating incentives to improve fuel economy and reduce emissions through the use of trailer skirts, fairings and technology such as speed limiters. Many large carriers take advantage of the incentives to achieve SmartWay certification.

2005 – The EPA begins work with the Clean Diesel Alliance, a group of 20 industry, government and consumer organizations providing information on cleaner burning vehicles.

2006 – Many truck owners pre-buy ahead of 2007 EPA standards.

June 1, 2006 – New rules take effect requiring refiners to produce only “ultra-low-sulfur diesel” containing 15 ppm sulfur. Retailers will be required to carry ULSD within months. The EPA provides special hardship provisions that allow some refiners and retailers extra time to implement ULSD by 2009.

Oct. 15, 2006 – ULSD is widely available at the pump and is separate from low-sulfur diesel in the distribution system. The remaining supplies of 500 ppm diesel are recommended only for pre-2007 engines and off-highway diesel vehicles such as locomotives. Alaska will be the last state to fully integrate ULSD in 2010.

2007 – The “2007 Highway Rule” is in full effect, and truckers report 5-7 percent more fuel consumption due to emission controls. Compliant trucks cost $7,000 more than they did in 2006.

Congress directs the U.S. Department of Transportation and EPA to improve fuel efficiency of medium- and heavy-duty trucks in 2010. The U.S. Supreme Court, in Massachusetts v. EPA, designates greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act, allowing EPA to take regulatory action. This effectively paves the way for EPA to be the lead agency with control over fuel economy standards.

2009 – Another pre-buy becomes reality ahead of the EPA’s 2010 promise to add another $7,000 to $10,000 to the price of new trucks.

May 21, 2010 – President Obama announces that the EPA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will partner to establish the first ever fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emission standards for model year 2014 through 2018 medium- and heavy-duty trucks.

Sept, 15, 2011 – EPA and NHTSA issue their final rule on fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions. This becomes known as “GHG Phase I.”

Feb. 13, 2012 – The American Truck Dealers, part of the National Automobile Dealers Association, estimates that EPA emission standards from 2004 to 2010 added $21,000 to the price of new trucks. The increases do not take higher warranty costs, additional financing or increased excise taxes into account for those vehicles.

Feb 18, 2014 – President Obama announces that EPA and NHTSA are launching work on “GHG Phase II” for trucks beyond model year 2018. The agencies vow to include trailers and new technology requirements as part of the total package. LL