OOIDA: EPA’s proposed emission standards for trucks are ‘impractical’

May 17, 2022

Tyson Fisher

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The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has several concerns about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s stricter emission standards for trucks it wants to impose, including trepidation over costs and safety.

In official comments submitted on Monday, May 16, OOIDA expressed several issues with EPA’s proposed rule establishing stricter emission standards for trucks. Although the Association does not necessarily oppose measures to reduce truck emissions, it does take issue with what it views as a rushed timeline that poses an existential threat to small trucking businesses and individual owner-operators.

In a proposed rule filed in March, EPA wants to tighten nitrogen oxide emission standards for trucks starting with model year 2027 vehicles. EPA’s proposal includes two options, one of which is stricter than the other. Option 1 is a two-phased approach that would reduce nitrogen oxide emissions about 90% by 2031. Option 2 involves a single step and would reduce emissions by 75%. If they go into effect, both truck emission standard options begin with model year 2027 vehicles.

“The regulatory options presented in the (proposal) maintain an impractical approach to achieving emissions reductions that discounts the contributions of the trucking industry, ignores realities from previous flawed emissions rulemakings, and does not thoroughly contemplate the operational impacts on small trucking businesses,” OOIDA stated.

Costs outweigh benefits

OOIDA said that both options “fail to provide adequate production timelines to ensure vehicle affordability.”

According to the OOIDA Foundation, the average price for a new truck is nearly 50% higher than it was in 2001, with an “influx of regulations” contributing to the price hike. On average, OOIDA members indicate that emissions and environmental equipment represent nearly $6,000 of their annual maintenance costs.

This is not the trucking industry’s first rodeo regarding rushed emission standards for trucks.

Previous rules have required diesel particulate filters in trucks. More than half of OOIDA members indicate they are not getting a return on investment for installing DPFs and similar emission technologies.

“Dating back to the 1970s, the agency has a history of well-intentioned attempts at reducing air pollutants and increasing fuel efficiency,” OOIDA stated in comments signed off by President Todd Spencer. “However, the unrealistic expectations of engine manufacturers’ capabilities, the underestimation of costs, the failure to anticipate risk aversion from buyers, and a lack of understanding about the trucking industry have undermined the environmental goals of the agency as well as intensified the mistrust of the agency. In order to avoid similar results, the NOx proposal must be amended to achieve the desired reduction in emissions.”

During a public hearing regarding EPA’s proposal for stricter emission standards for trucks, the Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association stated, “EPA’s proposed rule is not technologically feasible, cost-effective or customer acceptable.”

Current supply chain issues have exacerbated problems with emissions technologies. Parts shortages have forced many truckers off the road as they cannot replace parts necessary for compliance, including diesel exhaust fluid filters. Lost wages resulting from waiting for parts can cost a trucker thousands of dollars each week.

Stricter emission standards not necessarily safer

If past experience has shown the industry anything, OOIDA stated, it is that rushed regulations have decreased truck safety.

In terms of environmental safety, higher price tags due to regulatory compliance is backfiring. Unintended consequences of environmental regulations include truckers holding onto older trucks that are exempt from new rules. Not only are these trucks emitting more greenhouse gases, but they are more dangerous on the roadways as they age.

This has happened before with stricter emission standards for trucks.

“OOIDA members have experienced emission technology failures that caused their engines to quickly derate, placing truckers and other motorists in unsafe situations,” OOIDA states in submitted comments. “Clearly, the loss of power resulting from a technology failure is a serious safety concern that absolutely must be avoided in future regulations.”

The Association criticizes the federal government for quickly implementing too many burdensome regulations while dragging its heels with actions that can benefit the industry.

“Our members spend on average 250 nights on the road each year, keeping them away from family, friends, and the comforts of home. They often work between 60 and 80 hours each week – a demanding schedule that is rarely reflected in their paychecks. Instead of taking actions to benefit those who make their living behind the wheel, such as expanding truck parking capacity, increasing driver compensation, and improving working conditions, this proposed rule would make small-business truckers’ jobs more difficult and push some out of the industry. The final rulemaking should reflect more practical timelines that do not force drivers out of business or make it more challenging for new drivers to enter the industry.”

From the beginning of the regulatory process, EPA’s proposed emission standards for truckers have generated more than 200,000 comments. To read OOIDA’s latest comments, click here. LL

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Tyson Fisher joined Land Line Magazine in March 2014. An award-winning journalist and tireless researcher, his news reports, features and blogs bring depth to our editorial content, backed with solid detail. Tyson is a lifelong Kansas Citian.