The proposal, backed by the Clinton Administration and environmental groups, seeks to cut truck emissions by more than 90% by the year 2010. The proposal would affect everything from diesel-powered light, medium and heavy trucks to school buses
and would be accomplished two ways.
One, truck makers will have to reduce the amount of soot and nitrogen oxide emitted from trucks beginning with the 2007 model year by using catalytic converters, similar to those that have been required on passenger cars for the past 25 years, as well as installing computerized pollution controls. Truck and bus makers would be able to phase in the production of vehicles with cuts in nitrogen oxide each year, starting with a quarter of their fleet beginning in 2007 and continuing with the level, through 2010, when all of their fleet would have to meet the requirement. The proposed rules on particulate emissions would take effect in 2007.
Also, oil refiners would have to severely limit the amount of sulfur in diesel fuel from its current average level of 350 to 500 parts per million to 15 ppm in 2006.
The proposal only applies to the manufacture of new trucks and buses and retrofits of existing model produced through 2006 would not be required.
Trucking's biggest lobby, the American Trucking Assns., has sounded an alarm over the proposal. President Walter McCormick says the proposal "could raise the cost of a diesel truck engine by thousands of dollars and drive up the price of diesel fuel by yet another 20 cents per gallon and would force many in our industry off the road."
Oil refiners are also speaking out against the proposal, saying it could result in a sudden surge in prices and could lead to shortages of diesel fuel because they are already burdened with having to produce gasoline that is lower in sulfur content. The instead are calling for a reduction of sulfur to 50 ppm.
The American Lung Assn. is also applauding the proposal but wants to speed up the full implementation date from 2010 to 2007.
EPA officials plan to hold a series of hearings in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta and Denver, in the next 45 days, to get the public's reaction to the proposal, but they promise to put the rule into final form before President Clinton ends his second term in office.
It remains to be seen whether diesel engine makers will be ready to battle with federal officials over the proposal following a near billion dollar settlement with the EPA last year over violations of federal emissions regulations.