I was suspicious from the start, when, back in 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced joint Greenhouse Gas Emissions Standards and Fuel Efficiency Standards for Medium- and Heavy-Duty Engines and Vehicles. There was a signing ceremony at the White House. Everybody was jumping on to this new Green initiative. Wasn't anybody asking why?
This rule forces truck makers to sell the kind of trucks that customers are already clamoring for, that is, more fuel efficient trucks. The regulators pitched the rule as a carbon dioxide reduction initiative. The two are one and the same. If you burn less diesel, you produce less CO2. There's a mathematical connection between fuel use and GHG production. A gallon of diesel burned produces 22.38 pounds of CO2. It makes no difference if you burn the fuel in a Mack engine or a Cummins engine, or in a W900 or a Cascadia. One gallon of fuel burned equals 22.38 pounds of CO2 coughed into the atmosphere.
Examined from our perspective, a gallon of fuel burned is four dollars off the bottom line. We have a vested interest in stretching that four-dollar gallon of fuel as far as possible. Earlier this year, Daimler got everyone's attention with news that a Cascadia Evolution had made a cross-country trip between San Diego and Gastonia, N.C. averaging a spectacular 9.31 mpg. That achievement came without a Presidential edict.
What more do you think we're going to get from Daimler and Cummins and Paccar and everyone else that they wouldn't already be hastening to bring to market -- even without the new rules? The OEs live and die by fuel economy figures these days -- and warranty too and a bunch of other goodies -- but a tenth-of-a-mile-per gallon can be a deal breaker today.
The answer, I'm afraid, is very little indeed.
With the way the system is setup, the truck makers will earn credits for the more fuel-efficient trucks they sell. At the end of the year, the EPA or some other agency will audit the OE to verify what was actually sold, and they'll dispense credits accordingly.
The credit generating trucks will sell themselves. The not-so-efficient trucks that some customers might want for a variety of reason will still be in demand, so the OEs will have to come up with a way of countering the credit-cancelling impact of those trucks. In interviews I did for the story, I got the impression the OEs were not going to penalize customers who want the less than ideal trucks, or coerce them into buying the credit generators with preferred pricing or non-deletable options.
If that's the case, what do we gain from all this?
A fleet that buys a truck with fuel economy in mind will take the fairing and chassis-skirt packages. Some might be inclined to leave out the skirts if they have proven to be a maintenance burden in the past. They will probably have the truck governed -- maybe to 68 rather than the preferred 65, or a credit-enhancing 60, and they will more than likely spec tires that they have proven in years of experience. They aren't likely to jump from fuel-efficient duals to wide-base singles because they will earn their truck supplier a few more credits. There's much more behind those spec'ing decisions than the production of GHG reduction credits.
In the automotive world where better fuel economy means driving around in a beer can, people are understandably reluctant to give up there F-150s for a Toyota Prius. It takes regulation to force that kind of change on people who don't want it.
Do you think for a minute our industry would have voluntarily embraced EGR and DPFs and SCR and the hassle they brought with them? Not a chance. They had to be regulated into existence.
Do you think for a minute that this industry doesn't desperately want the most fuel efficient truck money can buy if the ROI is there? Of course we do. So then, what's this damn GHG rule all about anyway?