Getting SmartWay

by James Menzies

MARKHAM, Ont. – Canadian regulators are planning to mirror the impending fuel economy regulations for heavy-duty trucks in the US, presenting it as a greenhouse gas emissions-reducing program here at home.

That nugget came from Steven Laskowski, senior v.p. of the Canadian Trucking Alliance, who was speaking at the Canadian Fleet Maintenance Seminar.

The US fuel economy regulation is expected to be finalized this summer, at which time Environment Canada will post a duplicate regulation in the Canada Gazette, Laskowski revealed.

While Canada’s version will focus on emissions rather than fuel consumption, both sets of regulations will call for the use of SmartWay-approved technologies to meet the new standards.

“The SmartWay program is your regulation,” Laskowski said. However, unlike previous engine emissions regulations in 2002, 2007 and 2010, this time the burden of compliance will fall partially on the end user.

“This whole regulation is based on consumer behaviour,” Laskowski said. “Unlike in 2002, 2007 and 2010 where you didn’t have a choice, with regards to greenhouse gas regulations, you will have choices on what you buy. It will be up to you to choose and up to the manufacturers to manage.”

Also, unlike most previous emissions mandates, there will be an obvious payback in complying with the new fuel economy regs. While Laskowski said the US EPA has estimated tractor costs may go up as much as 6% as a result of the new requirements when all is said and done, fuel economy is projected to improve as much as 20% by 2018. The regulations will be phased in between 2014 and 2018 model year tractors. Trailers are so far exempted from the regs, despite the obvious fuel saving opportunities they present.

“In 2014-2015, we won’t see a heckuva lot different the way the rule is written, because at the end of the day it’s up to you what you decide to buy,” Laskowski said. “By 2017 and 2018, if consumer behaviour hasn’t changed, what are the manufacturers going to do? They may need to limit sales of certain models of tractors. It’s an interesting dilemma if that’s what happens.”

Josh Lepage, senior sales specialist, big bore engines with Navistar, said that’s precisely what OEMs may be forced to do under the impending rules.

“You may not be able to get Model A anymore, you’re going to have to buy Model B which is a SmartWay model,” Lepage warned.

The 2014 standard should be achievable using existing SmartWay technologies, chiefly low rolling resistance tires and aerodynamic fairings coupled with SmartWay-approved aerodynamic tractor models.

Other options that may be on the table include: speed control, idle control and driver training. Laskowski says challenges will be encountered in Canada, where weight limits are still placed on wide-base tires in some jurisdictions, full-sized boat tails are not allowed and many types of low rolling resistance tires aren’t winter-rated.

So, what exactly does a SmartWay truck look like? Lepage said an on-highway SmartWay tractor would typically have: a high roof fairing, side fairing, gap reducers, fuel tank fairings, an aerodynamic bumper and mirrors, a no-idle solution and low rolling resistance tires on aluminum wheels. A SmartWay trailer has side skirts, a front gap reducer, low rolling resistance tires and eventually, maybe a rear fairing or boat tail (increasingly popular in the US but not yet approved for use here in Canada).
Failing to include trailers in the impending regulation seems like a major oversight, since fuel savings of 5-6% have been proven in linehaul applications using trailer side skirts alone. However, Laskowski noted the trailer industry is highly fragmented – comprised of many small manufacturers – and it would be difficult to regulate them.

Brent Larson, president of Wabash Canada, said fleets and owner/operators can still achieve significant fuel savings on the trailer even if it isn’t government-driven. When spending a majority of time travelling at highway speeds, Larson said side skirts can provide fuel savings of 5-6%. Coupled with low rolling resistance tires that can provide another 1-1.5% fuel savings, a trailer can be made SmartWay-compliant relatively easily.

“If you’re travelling at highway speeds for certain distances, generally we’re seeing a payback in about 12 months (on side skirts),” Larson said.

Navistar’s Lepage, however, pointed out skirts can obstruct access to certain components and may increase servicing time. This is particularly important for reefer operators who may find the reefer fuel tank obstructed by some skirt designs. Larson said when choosing a side skirt supplier, “make sure the product you’re buying is intuitive to use.”

For instance, he pointed out some side skirt designs don’t work well on declining dock ramps.

“Some side skirts are less favourable as you get into docks that are declining,” he warned. “The side skirts can rub on concrete and cause damage and wear to the side skirt, so you want to be aware of those issues. We’ve had situations where customers were less than happy with the way the product performed when they went down into those dock configurations.”
He also suggested asking side skirt suppliers for data that indicates how well their products flex when contacting snow and ice and other objects.

Besides the obvious benefits of consuming less fuel, there’s another reason fleets should be interested in improving fuel economy and reducing emissions, Laskowski noted. While not much has been made lately of carbon credit cap-and-trade systems, he said the issue has not gone away and will eventually present an opportunity for truck fleets to benefit. Laskowski said while the trucking industry itself will be impossible to regulate under a carbon cap-and-trade model, carriers should be allowed to collect credits and sell them to industries that exceed their carbon output limits.

Under SmartWay, Laskowski contended, it’s relatively easily to identify fleets that have taken steps to improve their fuel efficiency and GHG output, which should entitle them to carbon credits they can then sell on the open market to big polluters such as coal plants.

“If you’re going to have to buy these trucks and reduce your greenhouse gas emissions whether you like it or not, why not capture credits for it and bank them? And as the years go by, you may find they are worth something on the open marketplace,” he pointed out.

Lepage agreed, noting the movement is already underway in the US.

“In the States, a lot of industries’ and companies’ carbon footprints are going to be looked at they’re going to be given a score that will determine if they have to purchase carbon credits or if they have a surplus of carbon credits, and then those credits will be offered on the open market,” he said.

Getting green for going green? Now that’s something fleets could buy into.

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