New EPA Emissions Rules Decried by Truckers
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has updated their emission standards for the 2027 year, focusing on curtailing NOx (nitrous oxide) emissions. The goal in this is to reduce emissions at least 80% below the current standard. They also want to reduce the particulate matter limit by 50%.
In addition, the EPA will require that original equipment manufacturers (OEM’s) extend warranties on their products to 450,000 miles, up from the current 100,000 miles.
This is great news for the environment. Pollution from diesel trucks, particularly long-haul trucks, is a major problem that directly affects millions of people in the United States. And yet, trucking companies and people in the trucking industry worry this may be too much.
Detailing the new standards
The EPA’s new emissions standards require heavy-duty commercial vehicles (this includes auto transport trucks) to limit their NOx emissions. Specifically, they require emissions no higher than 0.035 grams per horsepower-hour during normal operation, 0.050 grams at low load, and 10.0 grams at idle.
In addition, it will increase the useful life of governed vehicles by 1.5 to 2.5 times and also provide emissions warranties that are up to 4.5 times longer. The idea is that this will guarantee that, as vehicles age, they will continue to meet EPA’s standards for a longer period of time.
The rule will also require manufacturers to ensure that engines and emission control systems work properly on the road. So, they will have to demonstrate that engines are designed to prevent both drivers and fleet managers from tampering with emission controls and other parts of their trucks, in an effort to prevent skirting the new rule.
Overall, these standards put a lot of burden on the manufacturers and the fleet owners/operators to comply with the EPA’s new rules. And we believe that’s a good thing. As the planet continues to heat up thanks to global climate change, efforts need to be made in a variety of industries to ensure that our planet continues to be livable.
Carriers push back against new rules
It’s no surprise that over-the-road trucking companies are pushing back, however. Jed Mandel, president of the Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association (EMA), has called the rule “very stringent” and believes it will be difficult to implement.
EMA membership includes Cummins, Navistar, Volvo Group, Daimler Truck North America (DTNA) and Paccar, among others. So Jed may know a thing or two about these things. He also believes that the success – or failure – of the rule will hinge on trucking fleets purchasing and investing in new technology to meet the EPA’s new requirements.
However, others in the industry worry about their ability to meet any of the requirements. Many believe it will require new technology that may not be there, and even the EPA has said trucking companies may have to lean on prototypes that are currently out in order to meet the new regulations.
The belief is that new standards will limit equipment options and raise prices, which will disincentivize fleet turnover. This, according to Jim Ward, president of the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA), is the key to reducing emissions in trucking. He claims that the new rules the EPA is putting out do not account for ongoing equipment shortages and price increases, while also restricting equipment options moving into the new year.
The EPA, on the other hand, wants to ensure the transportation sector can continue to grow economically while reducing the harm to communities affected by trucking routes. This includes many population centers around major highways, such as New York City along I-95.
American Trucking Association fires back
The American Trucking Association (ATA) is worried that the new rules will “create havoc” for the industry, particularly when it comes to the EPA’s rules clashing with California’s even more stringent policies.
This is a real concern, as it can be hard for interstate carriers to abide by the “patchwork” of emission regulations passed by various states. California, in particular, is known for having even more strict regulations than the federal government.
The ATA “[hopes] the EPA and the CARB (California Air Resources Board) will ultimately agree to a uniform…standard that best achieves our nation’s environmental goals,” said Chris Spear, the president and CEO of the ATA.
Concern among small carriers as well
There is also concern among smaller trucking companies, specifically that they may have to choose between compliance and going out of business. Being forced to potentially rely on “prototype” technology to reduce their NOx emissions may not be feasible.
Also of concern is how the new rules will clash with older rules that manufacturers are working to abide by in new trucks coming out the next few years. Some worry that the new rules might prolong the construction of new trucks that burn more cleanly and operate more efficiently.
Many small trucking companies, however, complain that new trucks are worse than old ones. The lack of balance between new, compliant technology and trucks that actually function is yet another concern for small trucking companies.
This could deter many companies from purchasing new trucks that are better for the environment. And, considering that a truck from 1990 emits more nitrous oxide in one year than a new truck will over 30 years, that’s a problem.
None of this was unforeseen
Most trucking companies have their eye on this kind of legislation, and knew that the EPA was planning something like this for a while. And, for what it’s worth, the trucking industry has been working hard to keep up with all the changes the EPA and the government have made.
Ultimately, the trucking industry wants the same thing the EPA does – a world free of pollution. And yet, they still need to operate, pay their drivers, maintain their fleets, and so on. With the complexity of the new rules, more will come out regarding the efficacy of it as well as the industry’s ability to keep up with the changes as this story develops.
How the auto transport industry is responding
Auto transporters are just as much a part of the nation’s trucking industry as any other type of shipper. So they are decidedly impacted by all the new rules and regulations coming out of the EPA.
It’s a common complaint among auto shippers that newer trucks are of a lower quality than older ones. This is despite newer trucks having better technology, lower emissions, and better fuel efficiency.
Many believe that the new technology plays a critical role in their trucks being in the shop more. And over time, we here at American Auto Shipping have noticed that it’s often newer trucks that break down more than older trucks.
All the rules and regulations coming out of the federal government are great at protecting the environment. But they’re also putting a lot of strain on the backbone of the American economy. Newer trucks have more problems than older ones, even if they are cleaner and safer. This makes it harder for trucking companies to complete their contracts, and leaves a lot more people frustrated than in the past.
How all this affects your auto transportation services
Change is inevitable. It’s a part of life, and nothing stays the same forever. However, auto transport tends to change more slowly than other industries, because it’s often best to stick with what works.
As we mentioned, newer trucks are causing more problems for auto shippers. They are in the shop more, require more maintenance and have stricter regulations. If they are also forced to rely on experimental technology in their trucks, it could cause serious problems for many smaller trucking companies.
Auto shipping companies are usually smaller than other trucking companies out there. While there are many large ones with their own fleets, we work with a lot of independent owner/operators or small, 1-or-2-truck companies. It would not be surprising to see some of them go out of business because they cannot keep their trucks within regulatory limits, or they cannot keep their trucks maintained due to the excess costs.
While the industry will keep on keeping on without those companies, it’s a net negative nonetheless. If the problem is big enough, it could result in longer wait times for dispatch and even higher prices as carriers contend with all the new regulations.
I’ve been in the car transport industry a long time, and I’ve done just about everything you can do in it. I’ve also worked closely with many carrier companies over the years, and most have a hard time with new trucks.
But, at the same time, the climate crisis is only growing worse. Any actions we can take to reduce our carbon footprint are crucial. I firmly support the EPA and the federal government moving forward with legislation and regulations that help to achieve that goal.
It’s a fine line. There are tens of thousand of people just in the auto transport industry, perhaps more, that rely on diesel-powered trucks to pay their bills. Having rules and regulations that make it harder to do that is never a good thing.
To me, the solution is not black and white. It is nuanced, and requires a lot of thinking and planning and careful implementation. We’re up against a major deadline as well, because we only have so much time to get emissions down. So while the EPA is making it harder for some carriers in the short term, in the long run, the planet is counting on us to do our part to keep it healthy.