Small businesses concerned about pending fuel standards for trucks

| 7/25/2011

Two federal agencies that are developing the first ever fuel-mileage and emission standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks could issue a final rule by the end of this week, sources on Capitol Hill said Monday, July 25. OOIDA leadership says small businesses have every right to be concerned with the one-size-fits-all approach and the costs it will add to their operations.

OOIDA Director of Legislative Affairs Ryan Bowley says the talk on Capitol Hill is that the Environmental Protection Agency and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are days away from issuing their final rule. The agencies will call for medium- and heavy-duty trucks to make gains in fuel efficiency and emissions for model years 2014 through 2018.

Bowley says the rule is likely to lump large fleets and small businesses together, with an expectation that truck owners can quickly absorb and recoup the ever-increasing cost of new equipment and add-on technology.

“The biggest problem is, they’ve really pushed down a one-size-fits-all type of regulation,” Bowley said. He says truck owners and operators take exception to EPA’s assessment that the mileage standards will not have a negative effect on small business.

“It’s disingenuous of EPA to say this does not have an effect on small business when 90 percent of trucking industry is small businesses. They’re looking at the manufacturing level and not at the end users who are paying for the equipment,” Bowley said.

“To me, that calls into question everything they’ve done in terms of analysis.”

OOIDA is not alone in poking holes in the EPA/NHTSA efficiency plan.

The Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy has warned for years about how mounting regulations affect small businesses.

About a month ago, Sen. Olympia Snow, R-ME, and 16 other lawmakers wrote to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to express concerns about the effects of over-regulation. One of the regulations they highlighted was the EPA’s fuel efficiency and emission standards.

“Exceptionally high fuel prices, overreaching regulations, and a strained economy have created an environment of deepening uncertainty, and hampered growth for independent truck drivers and motor carriers who live shipment-to-shipment with diminishing profit margins,” the lawmakers wrote.

Bowley says increasing costs in the industry will force truck owners to hold on to older equipment as long as possible, and may trigger pre-buy conditions right before the new regulations take effect.

It is a well-known fact that driving habits have a significant effect on fuel economy.

“The government’s own studies say you can achieve significant fuel savings, which would have an effect on emissions as well, if you have a trained, experienced driver behind the wheel,” Bowley said.

Yet the EPA/NHTSA proposal does not go there. Instead, it focuses on costly upgrades to engines and add-on technology at the manufacturing level without considering the end user who purchases and runs the equipment.

An example is tires. Low-rolling-resistance tires may save fuel, but might give up traction.

“A lot of this is pie in the air things that they’re looking for with these savings. It’s based off of a one-size-fits-all model of how the trucking industry works,” Bowley said.

See related stories:
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OOIDA questions method behind efficiency rulemaking