Nothing to worry about in ’07, manufacturers insist
December 1, 2005
BOSTON, Mass. - Claims made by a panel of trucking supplier executives that the transition to the new environmentally-friendly 2007 model engines would essentially be a minor blip on the industry scre...
WORK IN PROGRESS: Trucks with 2007 engines have yet to reach full-scale production, but fleets are already voicing concerns despite rigorous testing.
BOSTON, Mass. – Claims made by a panel of trucking supplier executives that the transition to the new environmentally-friendly 2007 model engines would essentially be a minor blip on the industry screen caused more than a few raised eyebrows from a group of major fleet executives.
Four executives from Arkansas Best, Contract Freighters, Schneider National and Knight Transportation pitted themselves against four executives from Volvo, Freightliner, Cummins and Chevron at the American Trucking Associations Management Conference and Exhibition in Boston Oct. 18.
Peter Karlsten, president and CEO, Volvo Trucks North America, spoke first, saying his company is doing everything it can to make the move to the new 2007 engine as smooth as possible and will continue to meet customers’ demands for high quality equipment.
Freightliner LLC president and CEO, Chris Patterson said that testing of the 07 engine is well underway and Freightliner remains committed to keeping the competitive advantage in fuel efficiency.
Ed Pence, vice-president and general manager of Cummins, said his company made a commitment in 2002 to meet new standards and it kept that promise. Working collaboratively with companies such as Volvo and Freightliner, Pence said Cummins continues to move forward with testing and forecasts equal success in 2007 as it had in 2002.
However, members from each of the fleets present seemed unconvinced. They expressed fears of added operating costs, engine durability, decreased fuel efficiency and simply the unknown of a technology that has seen little testing.
“We are very concerned about the 2007 engines,” said Glen Brown, president and chairman of Contract Freighters Inc.
The history of the new engine dates back to 2000, when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) moved forward with its policy to make heavy-duty trucks and buses run cleaner. The goal was to cut harmful pollution by 95 per cent by 2007. The EPA is now requiring a 97 per cent reduction in the sulfur content of highway diesel fuel from its current level of 500 parts per million to 15 parts per million. Once fully implemented, the EPA projects that 2.6 million tonnes of nitrogen oxide emissions – a key contributor to smog – will be reduced each year. Soot or particulate matter will be reduced by 110,000 tonnes a year.
According to Glen Kedzie, the ATA’s environmental attorney, the problem with the open forum is that the suppliers are speaking with customers and will be more likely to emphasize the good qualities of the new engines than the bad.
“They weren’t really privy to talking about cost increases because of anti-trust issues,” Kedzie said in an interview with Truck News. Because the engine is still in the developmental stage, it’s difficult for the suppliers to immediately state what problems they’re facing. By doing so, it could mean the downfall of one competitor over another before they’re even out of the gate.”
Like any new product, there will be flaws that the engine manufacturers will have to tweak before marketing them on a widescale basis, Kedzie said.
With only about a year left in the testing and re-engineering process, and the amount of information on the engines limited, fleets are left in an uncomfortable situation.
“Fleets are concerned because they don’t know what they’re going to be up against,” Kedzie said. “At this point, it’s still an unknown commodity that they’re being asked to invest in. They don’t necessarily fully agree with what the trucking executives are saying. It’s probably fear of the unknown and rightly so. It’s all kind of speculation at this point.”
There are a few different scenarios for fleets with the 2007 model year looming on the horizon, according to Kedzie. Fleets may either stick to their usual buying pattern, increase the number of units purchased, move to leasing or do a pre-buy and hold onto their older models longer.
“We’re expecting a big decrease in demand for 2007 engines,” Kedzie said.
Erratic buying patterns may cause a problem in the long run, as EPA predictions for emissions reductions are based on a certain number of units sold. If, for example, 25 per cent fewer trucks are sold than the projected number, that’s 25 per cent increased pollution compared to the EPA requirements. As well, holding on to older model trucks longer may actually increase air pollution, since older trucks typically produce higher amounts of harmful pollutants.
Unfortunately, Kedzie said there’s no real way of knowing how the engines will perform until they’re out on the road, and even after that, it takes time to accumulate accurate data.
“You really don’t know what the impacts are until after you do a post-mortem, but you really can’t do that until a year or two after the fact,” he said.
“We’re probably not going to know the real story until two years after the deadline.”