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March 20, 2017   |   Diesel Technology Forum

Policy Insider

Diesel Spring To Do List: Enhancing Environment √ Reducing Emissions √ Growing Economy √

The cost of environmental rules has driven up the cost of new trucks, engines and equipment, but the benefits are there as well.

Spring has sprung. Its official arrival brings with it a sense of emergence, renewal, anticipation and opportunity. In that spirit, there are simple opportunities before us that go a long way toward enhancing our environment, reducing emissions and growing the economy. 

And none of them involve cutting agencies, regulations or budgets. 

It’s renewal. Putting the newest generation of technology to work. Out with the old and in with the new. Easier said than done, since a teeter-tottering post recessionary economy clouded with political anxieties has inspired hesitation rather than bullish investing in new commercial trucks, heavy-duty construction machines and farm equipment in recent years.

These tools of our economy are in large part powered by fuel efficient and durable diesel engines. They are built to do serious work, they cost a lot, but last a long time. And their turnover takes longer, not like consumer goods where rapid turnover of devices every two or three years is the norm.  Investments in capital goods like construction machines and commercial trucks are a longer term proposition in financing and in useful life. And the newer generation of technology is safer and also near-zero emissions.

Consider the tractor-trailer truck that delivers everything we eat and enables the services we demand, from all points of the globe right to our communities and doorsteps.

What’s the advantage of a new truck over an older one? 

Researchers at ACT Research, noted recently that at the end of 2016, about one-third of all active trucks in the U.S. achieved an average fuel efficiency of at least 7.5 miles a gallon, which may not sound like a lot to car buyers, but for 80,000 lbs. trucks, it’s a 25 percent increase in fuel economy over the other two-thirds of the equipment in the trucking world. 

A typical tractor-trailer truck travels 120,000 miles a year and at 6mpg uses about 20,000 gallons of diesel a year - about 4,000 gallons more fuel compared to the newest trucks at 7.5mpg. At today’s diesel price of $2.60/gal, that’s $10,400 in higher fuel cost compared to the new 2017 models.  Who doesn’t want to save over $10,000?

Likewise, new construction machines, farm equipment and equipment for infrastructure building are miles ahead of older generations, in their fuel efficiency, productivity and performance. The turnover from old to new equipment in the off-road equipment world is even longer than that for commercial trucks; even more than 10 years for some of the largest machines and equipment, with some smaller, higher utilization machines under 10 years.  

A robust agricultural economy, trucking environment and contracting environment are prime characteristics of economic expansion and growth, and would drive more jobs in manufacturing these new fuel efficient, clean and productive machines and trucks. Sure the cost of environmental rules has driven up the cost of these new trucks, engines and equipment, but the benefits are there as well. That’s why identifying and addressing the barriers to getting more of these new technologies on the road, farm and jobsite should be first on our Spring to do list. 


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Ezra Finkin
Director, Policy

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