The New Year and a New Era Begin

For those of you that have read my column in the past, you know I have certain views of what and how things should be done in our industry and by our government. I am an avowed free-marketer and have always felt that the great minds and resources in the...

The idea that a government mandate will create greater progress than the cost-of-fuel incentive seems a little odd. But that is the way they see things in Washington, including the “odd” part.

Throwing carbon dioxide output reduction into that mix seems a little excessive, but the two are closely related. The more fuel you consume in today’s truck, the greater the carbon output. So it seems to make sense that they should be tied together, sort of.

What makes little sense is that the latest mandate is to implement a significant fuel economy and carbon emissions improvement standard within the next two years. The problem is the unintended consequences that always seem to accompany mandates.   First, it will cost significantly more to field a new truck with the ability to meet the fuel economy and CO2 standards.

Second, truck owners and major fleets will make a value judgment on their cost of operation for new vehicles vs. keeping their old ones. Most will hang on to the old ones. That will cause another huge drop in new truck sales, like the 2007 EPA mandate did by more than 70 percent.

That scenario will most certainly reoccur when the new regulations come into effect. The downside is that very few of the new vehicles will be purchased so very little new technologies will hit the field. Trucks will be kept for longer periods of time, causing the degradation of low-emission solutions due to age and wear. Service and maintenance will be booming, for those in that business.

Trucking is a business, and a business runs efficiently or ceases to exist.

Fuel economy and emissions have greatly improved over the past few years as the newer engines enter the field. We were already on a path for improved fuel economy over the past 20 years, from 2½ to 3 mpg to 7 mpg in most operations. This was driven by cost effectiveness requirements of the truck owners.

With that improved fuel economy comes a significant reduction in carbon emissions; with or without the regulation.

Infrastructure improvements could greatly reduce fuel consumption and emissions of cars and trucks. This is a nation that grew and currently thrives because of our incredible mobility.

Drive down the Kennedy Expressway in Chicago sometime and try to envision it with an average speed of 55 mph for all vehicles. If there were sufficient roads and infrastructure to accommodate today’s vehicle population, trucks and cars would spend little time in gridlocked traffic.

Excessive idling is another target of the law makers. Most idling is done sitting in traffic and consumes massive amounts of fuel and generates tons of CO2.

Perhaps the government could try to use the hundreds of billions collected in fuel taxes to build the roads and bridges that they always told us they were collecting it for - but now I am dreaming.

However, building roads and bridges is a legitimate function for the government. Government should not be telling a fleet owner that he needs to get better fuel economy. 

That is the equivalent of telling a 16-year-old boy that he is mandated by law to look at pretty girls. 

As all three of my boys would have told me at that age: “Duh!”     


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Regardless of private sector concerns for the economics of some of the more bizarre things written into legislation, much of it makes its way into law, and all industry and employment suffers as a result.


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Tim Kraus is president and chief operations officer of the Heavy Duty Manufacturers Association (HDMA). HDMA is the heavy duty market segment association of the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Associations (MEMA). HDMA exclusively represents the interests and serves heavy duty product manufacturers. Prior to joining HDMA, Kraus served as director of sales and marketing at Triseal Corp.

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