Wait and see
Nov 1, 2002 12:00 PM
DESPITE a desire by many carriers to avoid new trucks with the post-October 2002 engines mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency, they eventually will have to make the required changes. Right now, though, they have time to either put off purchasing the new vehicles or, as some are doing, to buy a few and see how they perform.
Starting October 1, engine makers can sell only heavy-duty truck diesel engines that meet the new EPA emission standards: 2.5-grams oxides of nitrogen (NOx) plus non-methane hydrocarbon (NMHC). In 1998, six engine manufacturers signed a consent decree to produce engines meeting the new standards. Most of them will use cooled exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) to meet the levels.
The next deadline for engine makers to clean their products comes in 2007. The regulations mandate that PM levels drop to 0.01 g/bhp-hr (grams per brake-horsepower-hour), NOx to 0.20 g/bhp-hr, and NMHC to 0.14 g/bhp-hr. While PM standards will take effect immediately in 2007, NOx and NMHC levels will be phased in between 2007 and 2010.
Cummins Inc has received certification for its heavy-duty and medium-duty ISM and ISX heavy-duty engines. Detroit Diesel Corporation has received EPA certification for its 12.7 and 14.0 liter Series 60 on-highway engines, and Mack Trucks received certification for its on-highway ASET engines.
Caterpillar has received conditional certification, pending final EPA testing of production engines as required by the certification process. According to Caterpillar information, the EPA indicated that it does not foresee any obstacles to full certification of all Caterpillar engine families. Caterpillar expects to receive complete EPA certification in the near future.
Meanwhile, tank truck carriers are contemplating their tractor purchases with the new regulations in mind.
Transport Service Corp (TSC), Hinsdale, Illinois, purchased one Volvo tractor with the new engine, says Bob Schurer, president. The tractor was put in service for test purposes.
“TSC prepurchased 30 Volvo tractors with the ‘old’ engine,” says Schurer. “We will put these into service in 2003. Our current plans are no tractor purchases in 2003, but business demand could change our current plans.”
D M Bowman Inc, Williamsport, Maryland, has purchased four Mack tractors with engines that meet EPA requirements through 2004, says Sam Kennedy, chief maintenance officer. He expects no further new orders until the end of the third quarter next year.
“We've taken delivery of some of those 2002 engines and are in the process of using them. We want to get some kind of a feel for them because sooner or later we're going to be facing them.”
Since D M Bowman Inc sells all of its used tractors rather than using them as trade-ins on new ones, there is concern about the resale value of the tractors. Prospective buyers may be leery of the first-off-the-line products, Kennedy says.
Trimac Transportation, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, has not purchased any of the new engines yet, says Bill Januszewski, director of purchasing and equipment. However, the company has been field testing a tractor with a Cummins engine for the engine manufacturer.
“This has equipped us with factual data regarding the operational costs of the new emission-compliant engine,” says Januszewski. “The engine will definitely cost more, anywhere from $4,000 to $5,000 more. Because of the complexity of the engine it will likely cost a little more to operate, but the internal components are actually built better so the actual engine should last longer. Fuel economy should not change. Drivability and performance will improve.”
At Quality Distribution Inc, Tampa, Florida, new tractor purchases are on hold. “We have no new engine purchases planned at this time,” says Jay Langness, vice-president for technical services.
“We did place orders for trucks to be delivered prior to the October deadline,” he says. “Those trucks will have pre-October engines. We will delay purchase of new engines until we start to get feedback on operability. We've purchased a number of late model used trucks through the summer to augment our fleet. This will reduce our need for additional new tractors until later in the model year.”
Langness notes that some of the negative aspects of the engines include reduced miles per gallon, uncertain reliability, no consistent technology between engine manufacturers, and much greater cost, some quotes at $5,000 more per engine. “We're also concerned about the heat generated by the new engine, and the impact it will have on other components, including under-hood hoses, belts, and tires.” Weighted against the negative aspects is the reduction in engine emissions, he adds.
Peter Nativo, vice-president for maintenance at TSC, estimates the cost of the new engine at $6,000 with a miles-per-gallon decrease of 4/10 per gallon.
Kennedy is concerned about the possible maintenance problems. “When you raise the hood, it is just full of stuff,” he says. He predicts longer downtime as a result of the enlarged system with additional parts.
“We're also expecting them to run hotter, mixing exhaust gas back into the intake which increases the temperature,” Kennedy says.
Despite the concerns from the carriers, manufacturers argue in support of the new engines. Performance of the new Cummins engines has improved in terms of engine braking capability and overall engine responsiveness, according to John Wall, Cummins vice-president, chief technical officer. He added that the manufacturer will continue to refine and look for further improvements in fuel economy and reliability.
According to Peterbilt Assistant General Manager Dan Sobic, there are advantages to purchasing the new engines and maintaining existing equipment replacement cycles.
“Customers need to weigh the perceived disadvantages of the new engines versus the possible consequences of running their trucks longer or replacing vehicles with pre-owned ones,” Sobic says. “Initial evidence suggests that the impact the new engines will have on operating expenses will be moderate, whereas the impact of running older or less reliable equipment may be much greater.”
According to Sobic, there are factors that should be considered when evaluating the equation:
Pre-owned truck values are the strongest they have been in a while, with an average vehicle commanding an average of $3,000 to $4,000 more than it did just four months ago.
Quality pre-owned vehicles are also in demand
If following a four-year equipment-replacement cycle, purchasing a truck now that is equipped with 2002 certified engines may provide an enviable ownership position as the industry transitions toward the 2007 emission requirements.
“The challenges in meeting the 2002 emissions requirements pale in comparison to meeting the 2007 requirements,” Sobic says. “Customers purchasing vehicles with post-October engines now can turn that vehicle over four years from now, likely commanding a desirable resale value.”
In general, a new vehicle is healthier for the bottom line than a pre-owned vehicle. New vehicles can require less maintenance, provide better performance, help retain drivers and enhance company image, and deliver greater reliability and peace-of-mind by minimizing downtime.
Applying thought-out specifications and taking advantage of special programs can more than offset concerns over the new engines. “Some characteristics of the new engines can be offset by specifying lightweight componentry, aerodynamic affects, and low-maintenance, long-life systems,” Sobic says.
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