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A fuel tank half-full look at emissions

At the Alberta Fleet Maintenance Supervisors Association's (AFMSA's) conference and trade show in Edmonton last month one of the main attractions was a panel discussion on the 2002 engine performance and the impending EPA emissions standards.


At the Alberta Fleet Maintenance Supervisors Association’s (AFMSA’s) conference and trade show in Edmonton last month one of the main attractions was a panel discussion on the 2002 engine performance and the impending EPA emissions standards.

It’s been a hot topic of discussion at countless conferences and seminars across North America over the past year or so, and for good reason.

It’s a huge issue and operators (and even shippers) need to know why their costs are rising and what they can do about it.

Inevitably, talk at these panel discussions revolves around the poor fuel economy of the new environmentally-friendly engines and the fact they cost so much more to begin with.

Paying more for less is a bitter pill to swallow.

But let’s take a glass (or fuel tank) half-full approach to the issue for a moment, because I think the negatives associated with the engine evolution are often given more attention than the positives.

Let’s forget about the fact the new engines cost a few grand more than their predecessors. And let’s forget about the fact that they deliver worse fuel economy (manufacturers hope to regain some of that as they continue to develop their technologies). And let’s forget for a moment that we’ve yet to be convinced about the engines’ longevity given the extra heat buildup under the hood.

Put it all out of mind, just for now. Instead, let’s focus on what we’ve accomplished as an industry.

The 2004 engines have reduced NOx from 10.7 g/hp-hr (grams per horsepower hour) in 1998 to just two g/hp-hr and particulate matter (PM) from .6 g/hp-hr to a mere .1 g/hr-hr.

In 2007 emissions will be reduced a further 90 per cent to 1.9 per cent of 1987 NOx levels, and just 1.7 per cent of 1987 PM levels. That’s a 98 per cent reduction of those two emissions compared to 20 years ago.

In fact, it’s been said the 2007 engines will actually be pumping out cleaner air than they’re taking in! That’s a remarkable statement. Perhaps putting more trucks on the road will be the key to cleaning up our environment!

Having said that, we as an industry are guilty of one major oversight.

Outside trucking circles, nobody knows about what we’ve accomplished.

The general public still perceives trucks as big, dirty, smoky machines that consume ozone layer for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

We’ve been ineffective at getting the message of this huge accomplishment out to the masses.

The mainstream press has taken little interest in the transformation of diesel engines and perhaps we haven’t done enough to toot our own horn and make it known that our industry is doing its part to help clean the environment. We’ve been leaders in this regard, yet nobody knows it.

The trucking industry deserves some credit for what it has accomplished over the past few years so let’s quit being so damned humble and pass the word on!

– James Menzies can be reached by phone at 403-275-3160 or by e-mail at jamesmenzies@shaw.ca.


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