The first go-round for the heavy-duty fuel economy mandate should not prove too arduous, said panelists at the American Trucking Associations' Management Conference and Exhibition, held last week in Phoenix.

But according to Bill Kozek, Kenworth president and vice president of Paccar, the 2014 deadline could signal the end of the long-and-tall, best represented by his company's Kenworth W900L and sister company Peterbilt's Model 389. Could it also be the end of the Mack Titan, the Freight­liner Coronado, the Western Star and the 9900i International?

The problem is that the greenhouse-gas regulation is placing a major emphasis on aerodynamics as a way for the truck manufacturers to meet the fuel economy targets announced this week.

The good news for fleets is that any carrier that is already a member of the Environmental Protection Agency's SmartWay program is already doing what is likely to be required for 2014 and would see little change in terms of specs come trucks of that model year. The changes that are to be incorporated to meet the anticipated target fuel economies are right where the full SmartWay spec should put you today. And, rationally speaking, you should be doing everything you can to be SmartWay-certified anyway.

So, in comparison to the multiple changes made through the last decade to meet EPA emissions regulations, which jacked up the price of a new tractor $20,000 or more, 2014 should come and go without too much impact.

But Wait Till 2017

The second shoe drops in 2017. Both the engine panel and the truck chassis panel at the ATA meeting said this will involve some wailing and gnashing of teeth. To meet the demands of reduced GHGs and dependence on foreign oil required of the heavy-duty truck user and operator, new technologies will have to be deployed that will increase both the cost and complexity of the highway truck.

So far, they said, it looks like the most likely gains will come from waste-heat recovery.
Some of that we already have seen in the turbocompounding of the DD13 and DD15, where Detroit Diesel has added a second turbo downstream of the main inlet-air booster to get some extra work from the heated exhaust. But more machinery will likely have to come to capture what is currently just going up the exhaust stack and turn it into useful work at the drive tires.

At the ATA panels these were variously illustrated as separate exhaust-downstream engines with heat exchangers, turbines, geartrains and the like, where heat from the exhaust gets transferred into work that is added to the engine's output. That all looks terribly complex and difficult to accommodate. More likely will be some technology that already is under investigation by the U.S. military, where the heat in the exhaust pipe is directly turned into electricity by coatings that act as thermocouples. This would be much more elegant than a downstream steam engine and, hopefully, easier to accommodate and to afford.

How Much?

The big question is, how affordable will this requirement be? However waste-heat recovery is done, it'll take a technology that has to be researched, developed, applied and paid for. If there is any good news in this, it is that anything that reduces carbon footprint also reduces fuel used. And that means a potential return on investment.

As Daimler Trucks North America President Martin Daum pointed out, fuel inevitably becomes more expensive - he threw out $4 - and these technologies become more and more "affordable."

So we may be heading for an "affordable" $150,000 tractor. But it won't be one dripping with chrome and gingerbread like those W9s and Petercars of yesteryear.