Sustainable truck initiatives move faster than expected in some areas

Fleet owners around the country may want to consider investing in equipment maintenance software or direct routing software programs as state regulators begin to implement new fuel standards.

Because the federal government has had a hard time agreeing on meaningful legislation that effectively limits the impacts of climate change, many state and local governments have taken it into their own hands to create more stringent pollution control measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Many of these regulations have specifically targeted the trucking industry because heavy-duty vehicles that run on diesel fuel are one of the leading sources of climate change-inducing pollutants. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the transportation sector of the economy was responsible for 28 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions in 2011, second only to the electricity industry, which produced 33 percent of total pollutants.

Changes coming sooner than expected
Owners of heavy-duty fleets have had ample time to prepare for regulatory changes. However, some state governments have moved slightly faster than expected, causing transportation organizations to panic about potential threats to their overall operations in the near future. A recent article on the online publication Fleet Owner discussed a proposal in Washington, D.C. that would essentially ban all new diesel-powered vehicles after 2017. The provision is part of the larger Sustainable D.C. Omnibus Act of 2013, which aims to implement a variety of improvements to environmental infrastructure across the city in the hopes of turning the District into a leader in sustainability.

The relatively quick timeline on the ban of new diesel trucks has caused many organizations in the transportation industry to worry about the impact on business activity. In fact, the industry news resource The Trucker reported representatives from the American Trucking Associations (ATA), as well as from various other groups representing companies that offer moving, storage and truck leasing services to customers across the nation, drafted a letter to the D.C. City Council expressing concern that the proposed rule would be an unnecessary burden on small and medium-sized enterprises.

"We're very concerned that this provision, which is unnecessary to achieve the goals of the overall bill, would have a number of adverse effects on the residents and businesses in our nation's capital," Bob Pitcher, vice president of state laws for the ATA told The Trucker. "If enacted as written, there will be serious disruptions to the supply chain for D.C. - which receives the vast majority of its goods via truck."

The letter identified the unintended consequences of the proposed ban, such as a sharp increase in the number of older, diesel-powered trucks passing through the D.C. area that would produce harmful emissions and continue endangering the local population.

"Shippers may also choose to receive smaller, more frequent deliveries in smaller gasoline-powered vehicles…many, many gasoline-powered vehicles to add to one of the nation's already most congested cities," the letter stated.

A similar situation played out earlier this year in California as well. The California Construction Trucking Association (CCTA) took legal action to challenge a proposal from the California Air Resource Board (CARB) that would ultimately require fleet owners to replace all diesel-powered trucks that fail to meet 2010 EPA efficiency standards with new vehicles that have cleaner engines. CARB would make non-compliant trucking organizations purchase new diesel particulate filters (DPF) that can cost up to $20,000 per automobile. The CCTA claimed small businesses would be especially sensitive to this rule.

Using technology to limit maintenance costs
While many fleet owners are worried about the fast pace of new sustainability initiatives at the state and local levels, investing in equipment maintenance software can make it easier to comply with new regulations. Updating trucks with new tools and more fuel-efficient engines can quickly become a time consuming process that disrupts business operations. However, managers can utilize automated technology to streamline this process and ultimately avoid any negative impacts to profitability.

Trucking Info, an online industry publication, said truck manufacturers are quickly producing vehicles that not only limit greenhouse gas emissions, but that also perform at higher levels for longer periods of time. Transportation organizations can take advantage of these trends by adding fleet maintenance software to the arsenal.