TMC, NASHVILLE – The Environmental Protection Agency is making changes in its voluntary SmartWay program, including adding refrigerated trailers and accepting more testing methods from suppliers who want to get their fuel-saving technologies verified by the agency.

During a session at the ATA Technology and Maintenance Council annual meeting this week, Sam Waltzer, an environmental engineer with the EPA, noted that over the past decade "it's been a push-pull," with increasing state and national fuel-economy regulations on the push side, and voluntary adoption of fuel-saving technologies such as are promoted by the EPA's SmartWay program on the pull side.

As the agency has watched what has been going on in the trucking industry and on the regulatory side, with new federal fuel-economy regulations in the works, it has decided on some changes.

Starting immediately, SmartWay is rolling out what it's calling Interim Smartway-designated trailer standards. The new interim standard expands the scope beyond the 53-foot dry van trailer, adding 53-foot refrigerated trailers, synchronizing with California's rules, and adding another higher tier designation, a SmartWay Elite level.

Another new element is moving to a slightly different way of categorizing devices. Instead of listing SmartWay-verified side skirts, front fairings or rear fairings, for instance, devices will be categorized by the percentage fuel savings achieved in testing. The agency also will at a "systems" category for those systems of products designed to work together to improve fuel efficiency.

The traditional SmartWay trailer uses low-rolling-resistance tires and offers a 5% or better improvement in aerodynamics, Waltzer explained. The Elite level will use low rolling resistance tires but would require a total of 9% or more aero improvement.

There now will be four choices for original and supplemental tests, Waltzer said:

  • A new track test (still based on SAE testing protocols)
  • Coastdown tests
  • Wind tunnel results
  • Computational Fluid Dynamics, or CFD

In addition, the agency is moving from a list approach to a matrix, which would at a glance allow users to see which tests a particular product has passed.

"Right now we have a single list of verified devices," Waltzer said. "We wanted to provide additional information. We're providing the opportunity for manufacturers to provide additional testing." The grid will have one column with checkmarks indicating technologies meeting the current test, then a series of columns with checkmarks indicating the product has been verified as conforming to the other tests.

Beyond that, the agency is considering adding twin pup trailers. "There's quite a bit of information on the performance of aerodynamic devices on twip pups," he said but the agency is looking for more. Consider this "sort of an open call for data and input," he said.

"Another goal of ours is focusing on helping fleets understand how controlled verification testing translates to what they will see on the road," Waltzer said.

Expect to see more from the EPA SmartWay program on these changes in the next few weeks.