The transportation industry has been subject to change by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) since 19741 to further their mission to protect human health and the environment2. As emission-control technologies advance, the EPA releases regulations that the heavy truck manufacturers need to comply with to contribute to cleaner air. The regulations don’t only affect manufacturers but also any company that operates trucks including shippers who run their own private fleets or carriers who provide dedicated fleet solutions.
Below is an overview of the changes made in the last decade to heavy trucks as well as what we can expect to see in the future:
Starting in 2004 to 2006, the EPA’s main concentration was to reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, which is harmful to the environment. In 2004, manufacturers released an exhaust gas recirculation which trapped more exhaust gases like NOx. There was also an announcement that an updated version of on-board diagnostics (OBD) was expected in truck models from 2005-20073. These devices gave information to repair technicians, state agencies, vehicle owners, and manufacturers on the state and performance of the truck.
In 2007, the concentration remained on emissions, but there was a new goal; to focus on diesel fuel. Low sulphur was used as an additive so it would not contaminate or plug up the new exhaust “Diesel Particulate Filter”. The new exhaust filters now burned out the soot and trapped particles from entering the air. The filters would re-burn and then the ash would be removed from the muffler when the trucks were serviced. New engine models were implemented for more of a reduction in the NOx emissions than what was permitted in previous engines. These engines released emissions that were 90% cleaner than previous models4.
The EPA 2010 mandates the further elimination of NOx which caused all truck manufacturers to re-design how the engines run. Some of the exhausts are now horizontal as opposed to the vertical exhaust that we used to see on the back of the cabs since the trucks no longer create black smoke. The exhausts themselves can actually purify the air in heavy smog areas. Many manufacturers went to diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) also known as a selective catalytic reduction (SCR) which aids in burning the soot. This new method allowed engines to achieve better fuel economy and the trucks could go much longer between exhaust filter cleaning.
The 2014 regulations were finalized back in August 2011 and are also recognized as Phase 1 of a longer-term plan to target carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide5. During this time, manufacturers worked on a complex formula with speed, restricted speed, and idle time to develop the new models. Every tractor is required to have electronic on-board recording device (EOBR) to send data about the truck, driver, emissions data, and fault codes which are transmitted to the motor carrier6.
In 2014, the EPA announced that by 2017, tractors have to have a 20% reduction of CO2 emissions and fuel consumption. Manufacturers continue to make changes with improved aerodynamics and down-speeding.
Many believe that the 2022 regulations will be a significant one as we reach the second phase of targeting carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. The first draft of these mandates will be released in June of this year with a final expected in 2016. Rumors of fuel economy stickers regulated by the government and testing methods are circulating. All of which can increase buying competition for the manufacturers.
As technology advances, we can expect to see the EPA continue to transform the trucking industry to make trucks more efficient for the environment as well as for those who are using them. For more in-depth information on the regulations visit the EPA website.