New Truck MPG Regs Must Target Affordability & Performance

While the EPA and CARB are both considering tighter fuel economy standards for passenger cars and light trucks, they are also busy crafting new Phase 2 rules for heavy duty trucks. At a conference in Chicago on August 6, Eric Jorgensen, chairman of the American Truck Dealers association, told regulators that truck mpg regs must consider both affordability and performance. In fact, he was quite blunt in his comments.

“Cleaner/greener new equipment will do nothing for the environment or for energy security until it is bought and placed into service, more often than not replacing older, less efficient equipment,” said Jorgensen. “Consequently, your goal should be to hit a regulatory sweet spot by setting performance standards that result in new products purchasers are willing and able to buy.”

truck mpg regs must target afforability

His point is little different from what car makers have been telling the EPA and CARB recently, which is that the best thought-out regulations will accomplish nothing if people choose not to by the cars that meet those regulations. Sales of electric and plug-in hybrid cars still account for less than 1% of all US sales. The green car revolution is going nowhere until those cars go mainstream.

Cost will always be a concern when a carrier is purchasing new trucks, according to The Trucker. Jorgensen adds that while some carriers can afford to be “early adopters” of new technology, others can’t. “Remember, my customers have options. Instead of choosing to buy new cleaner/greener equipment, they can instead pay my service and parts operations to help them keep their existing vehicles on the road, up to and including re-building engines or vehicles. Alternatively, they can buy used trucks or tractors that meet their needs, at lower cost than equipment covered by new mandates. Any new mandates must be affordable to succeed in the marketplace.”

But we’ve also seen the argument strongly made that extended-range electric trucks are more cost-competitive than the conventional alternatives. Perhaps the issue in the industry is the same as it is in the broader car industry — lack of awareness.

Jorgensen has something else to tell regulators, which is that any new regulations must not increase maintenance costs or downtime. “Prospective customers will avoid like the plague vehicles they know or perceive will be less reliable or that will require more intense service, maintenance, and/or repair. Simply put, my customers will not invest in higher downtime rates,” he said. “In addition to higher operating costs, tractors and trucks that don’t move, don’t make money.”

Again, the thing Jorgensen doesn’t seem to know or care to mention, is that electric vehicles have much fewer moving parts and require much less maintenance, and should last much longer as well.

Lastly, on behalf of the trucking industry, Jorgensen pleaded with regulators to make rules that are applied uniformly throughout the country. California in particular seems poised to impose regulations that are more stringent than other states. But that’s obviously going to be the case. California is leading the way — every transition needs leaders. California has pledged strong carbon emissions cuts and cleaner air, and with transportation perhaps the biggest contributor to global warming and dirty air in California, that means cleaning up the transportation industry, including trucking.

Steve Hanley

Closely following the transition from internal combustion to electricity. Whether it's cars, trucks, ships, or airplanes, sustainability is the key. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.