Author: Vitaliy Dadalyan

Commentary: Devil’s in the Details of California Emissions Dream

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Deborah Lockridge

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Deborah Lockridge

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Trucks are going to have to get cleaner and cleaner — just as the modern automobile has gotten cleaner and cleaner. … Now it is the trucking industry's turn.”

This comment, part of a contributed piece that ran on, sent me straight up a tree.

The topic was California's recent announcement that it is planning to crack down further on emissions from diesel trucks as it struggles to meet federal air quality limits in some parts of the state.

I don't disagree with the overall message of the Forbes column, that trucking should “engage regulators” instead of just saying “no.” In fact, that's exactly what trucking has been doing at the federal level. Truck and engine makers and the American Trucking Associations and other groups worked with the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on developing federal greenhouse gas/fuel efficiency regulations, Phase 2 of which is near final publication.

I don't need to tell most of you about how excruciating it was getting through the decade of federal nitrogen oxide (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) emissions changes in the aughts. Equipment got more expensive, fuel economy suffered, maintenance costs went up, and heavy aftertreatment equipment got added that we're still trying to figure out how best to maintain.

Yes, it's a worthy goal to improve the environment and public health by reducing emissions. But truck emissions have in fact come a long way. It's quite likely that the air in some parts of California is now actually cleaner coming out the exhaust side of a new diesel truck than it is going in.

But it was an expensive, painful process to get there, both for the makers of the engines and for the fleets that bought them. Caterpillar got out of the business altogether, and Navistar is still working to recover from its failed emissions strategy.

So you can't blame trucking for looking at proposals to further cut NOx with a good bit of trepidation.

The California Air Resources Board in May proposed a low-NOx engine standard to be developed for heavy trucks, which would go into effect starting in 2023 (NOx is a major component of the smog that plagues the LA basin.) It also plans to push the EPA for a nationwide low-NOx standard.

But truck and engine makers have said in the past that striving for low NOx in diesels is at odds with federal GHG goals for increasing fuel economy.

I spoke with Mike Tunnell, director of energy and environmental affairs for the American Trucking Associations, a couple weeks after the CARB announcement. He pointed out there's a lot going on here, as truck emissions are just one small piece of a wide-sweeping effort with intersecting plans from different agencies.

One of the concerns is the lack of detail, he said, which make it “difficult to gauge how the impacts are going forward.”

Trucking has had very little time to digest all this (again making it difficult for the industry to really “engage” CARB, as the Forbes article suggests), with comments due July 1 in advance of a September hearing on the plan.

Making it more difficult is that the federal Phase 2 GHG regs are still being finalized.

“I think the uncertainty over the GHG standards will have to be resolved,” Tunnell said. “If they're viewed as really stringent and trying to push out all the fuel economy/GHG reductions that you can get out of an engine, that doesn't leave you much room to go back and get NOx [reductions].”

California is the only state that's allowed to write its own emissions regulations. But if it makes these decisions in a vacuum and doesn't take into account how its goals intersect with federal GHG regs, I'm afraid we could see a repeat of the aughts.

Related: Mack Testing Hybrid Drayage Truck at SoCal Ports

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Air-Weigh Scale Can Improve Safety for Work Trucks

Air-Weigh has released the LoadMaxx Work Truck Scale, an onboard scale designed specifically for work trucks.

The onboard axle scale is designed to improve safety and make trucks more efficient. The LoadMaxx Work Truck Scale warns the driver when a vehicle's weight approaches its safety threshold, allowing operators to load trucks safely.

Overloading is a leading cause of crane and hoist accidents on work trucks, according to Air-Weight, saying that one vehicle overturns for every 10,000 hours of crane use and 80% of these incidents are related to excess weight.

Air-Weighs weighing technology reduces the threat of overloading without disrupting a fleet's efficiency and can eliminate overweight fines as well.

Air-Weigh is a provider of on-board weighing solutions, building scales for commercial and refuse vehicles.

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CVSA Upbeat on FAST Act Impact on Carrier Safety

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Jay Thompson testifying before U.S. Senate panel. Image: CVSA


Jay Thompson testifying before U.S. Senate panel. Image: CVSA


As the Commercial Vehicle Safety Association sees it, the FAST Act highway bill passed late last year included numerous provisions that, once implemented, will improve motor carrier safety.

“Increased funding means states can improve their programs and reach more in industry,” stated Maj. Jay Thompson of the Arkansas Highway Police, in testimony he delivered on Capitol Hill this week in his role as president of CVSA.

Thompson went on to tell members of the Senate Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security that changes the bill will bring to the Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program “will cut out unnecessary administrative burdens and help focus funds where they will be most effective.”

In addition, he testified that changes to the regulatory process mandated by the FAST Act will “help streamline” regulations and improve their clarity and transparency.

Thompson also contended that mandated improvements to data quality and information technology systems will ensure that states and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will “have the information they need to continue to improve the effectiveness of MCSAP.”

On the other hand, Thompson advised that Congress and stakeholders “still have work to do. A long-term funding mechanism must be identified to ensure MCSAP continues to grow with the industry. Enforcement and industry must come together to identify a responsible, practical approach to exemptions and we must address deficiencies related to passenger carrier enforcement in order to keep our roadways safe for the people traveling on them.”

While he said that “the good news is the Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program works,” he also remarked that “there are a number of challenges the states are dealing with that diminish the effectiveness of the program. The FAST Act, however, included a number of requirements that, once completed, will improve motor carrier safety and CVSA looks forward to working with Congress, DOT, industry and other stakeholders” on that implementation.

“CVSA strongly supported the changes to MCSAP implemented in the FAST Act,” Thompson said. “The changes, most of which are effective beginning in fiscal year 2017, will provide states with additional flexibility in how they spend their MCSAP grant funds, streamline the grant application process, eliminate redundancies between overlapping programs, and reduce the administrative burden on states, allowing them to spend more time doing the work of the program and less time on administrative activities.”

He called that flexibility critical, contending that it will give states “the ability to design a comprehensive CMV safety program that utilizes creative solutions to address issues unique to each state, while also meeting all program requirements.”

Despite delivering a largely positive message about FAST Act reforms, Thompson was realistic about the task ahead to deliver on the law's intent. “Implementing these changes is going to be a long and involved undertaking.”

He added that FMCSA has already begun making the necessary changes in preparation for fiscal year 2017, notifying the states of the new configuration and program requirements at the a MCSAP planning meeting that was held back in March.

“Because the changes are so significant and impact every facet of the program,” he added, “it is imperative that CVSA, the state jurisdictions and FMCSA work together to identify potential issues as they arise and identify the best working solution for all parties.”

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HDAW 2017 to Focus on Developing Diverse Solutions

Heavy Duty Aftermarket Week '17 conference organizers have announced “Developing Diverse Solutions,” as the theme for next year's annual aftermarket conference. The conference is set for Jan. 23-26, 2017 at the Mirage in Las Vegas, Nev.

"Distributors, suppliers and fleets are all able to learn and build off this exciting program. Every participant has something valuable they can take away to empower creativity and positive energy throughout the industry,” said Carl Mesker, vice president of the aftermarket Americas. "Finding new solutions to problems is what our industry needs, that is exactly what this year is all about.

Heavy Duty Aftermarket Week '17 will offer industry participants four days of education programs, a product expo with the new HD parts-services and information, peer networking opportunities and social activities. There will also be opportunities for one-on-one meetings during which suppliers and distributors can discuss business, grow relationships and figure out how to better serve customers.

The 12th Annual HDAW is the largest North American gathering of independent heavy-duty aftermarket industry. More than 2,300 executives and managers from the U.S. , Canada and six other countries attended the 2016 conference, representing distributors, suppliers, service providers, educators and industry media.

For more information on next year's conference, click here.

Related: Speak Up On Aftermarket Issues

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SoCalGas Opens Heavy-Duty Ready CNG Station

Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) has opened a new public compressed natural gas (CNG) station in the heart of Pico Rivera, Calif., warehouse and distribution district. The new CNG station extends the network of CNG stations across a key regional goods movement corridor and will provide owners and operators of natural gas-fueled trucks and other vehicles with a new, convenient place to fuel.

The new public CNG station will help improve air quality by providing a more convenient location for CNG fueling and by helping to meet growing demand from commercial fleets for a clean-burning and affordable fuel. New commercially available CNG heavy-duty trucks can reduce smog-forming Nitrogen Oxides emissions by 90 percent from CARB 2010 emissions standards, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent. This can play an important role in improving the quality of life for families in communities near transportation corridors.

Those most likely impacted in transportation corridors are disadvantaged communities. Studies also indicate that air pollution contributes to asthma, cancer, and premature death, especially in children and the elderly.

"Southern California is leading the nation's clean energy revolution," said Linda Sánchez, who represents the 38th District of California that includes Pico Rivera, where the new SoCalGas CNG fueling station is located. "This new fueling station will improve public transportation for the region, grow our economy, and help our community fight air pollution. As a strong proponent of clean energy alternatives, I am excited to see more clean vehicles on our roads and freeways."

"The MSRC was proud to provide $150,000 in Clean Transportation Funding to SoCalGas for the equipment, installation and other costs to help build this CNG station," said Greg Pettis, chair of the Mobile Source Air Pollution Reduction Review Committee (MSRC) and mayor pro-tem of Cathedral City, Calif. "This is the second SoCalGas station this year for which the MSRC has provided funding, so we are excited to help contribute to the continually expanding network of CNG fueling stations across the Southland."

The new heavy-duty-capable public station was designed for the needs of heavy-duty trucks, with wide driveways for easy turning, 16-foot high canopies with LED lighting, and robust compressors for quick, reliable fueling. In addition to SoCalGas' capital investment, the station is made possible by financial support from the MSRC.

In addition to the station, SoCalGas supports heavy duty commercial fleets with its Truck Rental Program, a "try before you buy" initiative that provides a free two-week CNG heavy duty tractor or truck rental for customers to experience firsthand the performance and efficiency of a CNG vehicle.

The company provides information, education and expert tools and consultation to fleets to support them in evaluating how CNG trucks can work and provides technical expertise to help customers and partners develop new refueling facilities.

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