Cost of equipment still a sticking point in new fuel economy mandate, OOIDA says

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | 2/18/2014

Everyone is concerned about fuel efficiency for their vehicles and their bottom lines, but a new mandate from the White House could put the cost of new equipment out of reach for many of America’s hard-working truckers, OOIDA said Tuesday.

President Obama stood with UPS, Coca Cola and other large corporations Tuesday, Feb. 18, in Maryland to announce the second round of fuel-economy standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks.

And like the first round that targets model years 2014 through 2018, the administration has tapped the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to partner with the DOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to push a technological approach to fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions, this time looking beyond model year 2018.

The White House announcement calls for greater efficiency for engines and powertrains, aerodynamics, weight reductions, rolling resistance, hybridization, automatic engine shutdown and accessory improvements for fans, auxiliary power units and air conditioning. Many of these technologies are not yet in production and most would have impacts on specialized trucking operations.

OOIDA, which represents 150,000 owner-operators, leased operators and company drivers, says the standards will continue to push the cost of new trucks skyward, thereby forcing truck owners to hold on to older equipment longer and put off buying new trucks and trailers as long as they can.

“Shock and awe may be the best way to describe what’s happening to the vast majority in trucking with these proposed regulations,” said Todd Spencer, OOIDA executive vice president.

“Each year for the past 10, more and more truckers are squeezed out of the option to buy new equipment because of ever increasing prices due to government requirements that are long on promises but way short on performance.”

Spencer added, “We’re not talking about some 60-watt light bulbs here where poor performance or premature failure is a minor inconvenience. Large trucks are vital tools, essential to our economy and our way of life, and most trucker operators are small-business people just getting by.”

According to the EPA, the 2014-2018 standards will add approximately $6,200 to the price of a new truck. The administration has not yet released how much the second round will tack on.

The American Truck Dealers, a division of the National Automobile Dealers Association, estimates that EPA mandates from 2004 through 2010 added $21,000 to the price of new trucks.

The White House announcement calls for the EPA and NHTSA to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking by March 2015 and finalize a rule by March 2016. It also directs the two agencies to work closely with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) “with the goal of ensuring that the next phase of standards allows manufacturers to continue to build a single national fleet.”

In addition, the announcement calls for the advancement of natural gas and biofuels as alternative power sources for trucks.

OOIDA says a technological approach to fuel economy overlooks how much a trained professional CMV operator can affect fuel consumption.

“Multiple studies have shown the biggest variable in fuel economy is always the driver, accounting for as much as 30 percent of fuel consumption, yet they aren’t trained to maximize fuel economy,” Spencer said.

Groups throughout the trucking, shipping and equipment manufacturing sectors issued statements in reaction to Tuesday’s announcement.

The American Trucking Associations, which had been onboard with the first round of fuel economy and emissions standards in 2011, says it’s not ready to support the next phase.

“While the American Trucking Associations fully backed a similar move by the president in 2011, it wasn’t ready to take the same stance today,” ATA stated in a press release.

Copyright © OOIDA