A public hearing in Long Beach, CA this month prompted a wave of support for this initiative and concern for the current trajectory of human environmental impact. The hearing was held regarding a proposal by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) originally submitted in June. While commercial freight and passenger trucking comprises the backbone of our economy and way of life, the transportation industry is also a major generator of greenhouse gases and other concerning pollutants. But is the concern that can be found so easily in California one that will resonate with those in other parts of the country?
Daniel Kieffer, Director of Emissions Compliance for Paccar Inc., indicated that his truck manufacturing business sees the pending proposal as a potential win-win. He notes that this may only be possible, however, if the complexities of market costs, market demand, aerodynamic science, and vehicle ownership and operation costs can reconcile into a profitable arrangement. It will be difficult to know how this will shake down for individual businesses until the proposal specifics are defined and approved, and go-live date is then posted.
Current details available indicate that the proposed regulations would aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the United States by approximately 1 billion metric tons, conserving nearly 2 billion barrels of oil. This would theoretically save the transportation industry about $170 billion in fuel costs over the lifetime of vehicles sold under the program.
The proposal would have regulation changes begin for model year 2021 and phase in fully by model year 2027. While some have shown great concern over the industry’s ability to bear these up-front (and potential) long-term costs, other have spoken out in opposition to the seeming lack of urgency. While climate scientists are working harder than ever to determine what impact our behaviors have on years and decades to come, it is unclear to what extent these regulatory changes will be effective. But if, as Mr. Kieffer points out, the regulations can provoke a positive shift in the transportation community, this may be a transformative shift in trucking technology.