It remains to be seen what impact the Obama administration’s proposed fuel efficiency standards for trucks, pickups and big rigs will have on farmers and ranchers as the federal government increasingly regulates the nation’s transportation industry.
“It’s kind of like dealing with the unknown,” Glen Kedzie, Energy and Environmental Affairs Counsel and Vice President for the American Trucking Association, told the Western Livestock Journal. “It’s hard to predict. …We can’t predict what the requirements will be at this time.”
Kedzie was among those in attendance Feb. 18 when President Barack Obama announced in Maryland that he was instructing Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy to develop stricter fuel economy standards for medi um and heavy duty trucks by March 2016.
“Starting 2017, we have to kick it up a notch,” he said.
The federal agencies are expected to issue rules by March 2015, building on the first round of standards for medium and heavy duty vehicles with model years 2014 through 2018, which were proposed and finalized by the administration in 2011 and which take effect this year, calling for a 10-20 percent increase in fuel economy by 2020, depending on class of vehicle.
Engine fuel efficiency was to improve 3 percent during the first phase and another 3 percent during the second phase of the regulations or 6 percent total, Kedzie said.
The five major areas addressed for big rigs to improve on fuel efficiency under the first phase were: use of fuel efficient tires; lighter weight equipment; reducing speeds; reducing idling; and improving aerodynamics.
“We want them to approach this cautiously, deliberatively and not jump off the deep end,” Kedzie said, noting if the fuel efficiency standards require heavy investments they also should glean economic benefits, predicting the second phase could prove more expensive for those who want to buy tractors, expending large sums up front.
“We want to make sure we have the technologies they want to put on our shoulders—technologies ready for prime time.”
Trucking industry officials have been meeting regularly with federal officials to iron out details.
“They’re meeting with so many interest groups that heads are spinning.”
Delivery trucks, full-sized pickup trucks and vans, tanker trucks, 18-wheelers and possibly even trailers would be affected, but tentatively not livestock trailers, he said. Truck tractors also are likely to get additional improvements.
“Smart trucks” that would eliminate driver error by computerizing powertrains, shifting, braking and idling also are under consideration.
Kedzie noted the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that the EPA has the power to regulate greenhouse gases, and Congress has authorized EPA and U.S. Department of Transportation regulations. All three branches of the federal government have thrown their weight behind better fuel efficiency, he said.
“We have two different charges here. … These regulations are going forward because of an act of Congress and the Supreme Court. Most people don’t understand two separate distinct authorities are driving this, based soundly in law. We want to make sure we have a seat at the table,” Kedzie said.
“We want as much input as we can give to develop regulations as palatable and reasonable as we can for the industry.”
Ninety-eight percent of trucking companies are small businesses with 20 trucks or less, Kedzie pointed out.
California already has state fuel efficiency rules in effect for trucks. Cynthia Cory, Environmental Affairs Director with the California Farm Bureau Federation, noted that diesel soot is considered a toxic air contaminant.
Trucks in California have fallen under state regulations the past four to five years, Cory said, adding agriculture equipment in eight counties of the San Joaquin Valley will be next.
“The truck rule impacts everything over 14,000 gross vehicle rating,” she said, noting a replacement schedule for the vehicles depends on size, age and mileage.
If truckers cannot get new engines and must install emissions traps on their older vehicles to comply with air quality regulations, the fuel efficiency of their equipment gets really messed up, Cory told WLJ.
On Tuesday, Feb. 25, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued an emergency order requiring stricter standards to transport crude oil by rail, marking the fourth emergency order or safety advisory on crude oil in the last seventh months.
DOT required all shippers to test product from the Bakken region to ensure the proper classification of crude oil before it is transported by rail, while also prohibiting the transportation of crude oil in the lowest-strength packing group.
Recent derailments have involved trains carrying crude oil from the Bakken region of Montana, North Dakota, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
“Today we are raising the bar for shipping crude oil on behalf of the families and communities along rail lines nationwide. If you intend to move crude oil by rail, then you must test and classify the material appropriately,” said DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx.
“And when you do ship it, you must follow the requirements for the two strongest safety packing groups. From emergency orders to voluntary agreements, we are using every tool at our disposal to ensure the safe transportation of crude.”
Those who offer crude oil for transportation by rail must ensure that it is properly tested and classified in accordance with federal safety regulations. Shippers are required to use nine hazard classes as a guide to properly classify their hazardous materials.
Proper classification will ensure that the material is placed in proper containers and that the risk is accurately communicated to emergency responders.
In response to the DOT’s new orders regarding the safe transport of crude oil by rail, Julia Wise of the Association of America Railroads issued the following statement to WLJ:
“The safe movement of crude oil by rail is a shared responsibility among all stakeholders in the energy supply chain. Railroads have supported the administration’s pursuit of proper classification and labeling of petroleum crude oil in tank cars by shippers prior to transport. This is essential to ensuring first responders are able to safely and appropriately respond in the event of an accident or incident.” — Mark Mendiola, WLJ correspondent