If California's contentious debate over air quality is any indication, America's fleet faces a dire future.
Those managers responsible for on-road trucks know what the 2007 EPA regulations have done to, or will do to, their fleets as new engine technologies combat NOx and particulates. That transition will pale in comparison to the shift facing fleet managers over the next few years, when off-road engines must meet similar requirements.
This year, particulate filters and other engineering solutions changed truck design. Add in the ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel, and equipment managers now wrestle with maintenance-management challenges.
This draconian reduction will hit off-road engines beginning next year. The Tier 4 standards require the reduction of particulate and nitrogen oxides by 90 percent. This will be phased in over several years, but the technologies will be similar to what we've seen with the 2007 truck engines.
Back to California, where state EPA officials want to accelerate the Federal guidelines. Public comment on these moves has been greater than anticipated, and the public hearing begun May 25 has been extended until the California Air Resources Board (CARB) meets July 26.
According to Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers, the discussions are already moving some fleet owners to sell machines that will be affected by California's proposed action on emissions. "If the vote passes, equipment covered by the new regulations will have to be retrofitted, re-powered or replaced — at the expense of equipment owners," according to Ritchie Bros. press materials. As a result, the auctioneer says, many fleets are selling now rather than scrapping equipment.
Equipment professionals can count on actions in California moving to Texas and rapidly across the country. If equipment owners must turn over their fleets in an accelerated fashion, or as more fleets decide to rid themselves sooner than later, the used-equipment market could become pretty dicey.
Whether in 2007, 2008, 2010 or 2030, all construction equipment must run cleaner. For equipment managers, the looming question is how do you bring your fleet into compliance? And how do you dispose of the noncompliant units?
The future is cleaner, but the path is far from clear.