NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Truckers Race to Circumvent New EPA Deadlines

May 28, 2002

A new Environmental Protection Agency rule aimed at long-haul trucks is coming down the pike and trucking firms are buying existing rigs like fire sale items, all in order to avoid having to purchase the new EPA-approved models.

Starting Oct. 1, the EPA will require new big-rig engines to meet lower limits on emissions of nitrogen oxides.

Here is why truckers are acting to dodge the new rules:

  • Trucking executives fear the new requirements will add between $3,000 and $5,000 to the current cost of an engine -- which typically sells for about $15,000.
  • They also expect the engines will be less fuel efficient, costlier to maintain and possibly more prone to breakdowns on the road.
  • In this year's first quarter, orders for the big-rig trucks in North America topped 65,000 -- up 70 percent from the year-earlier period and a level not seen since the bottom fell out of the U.S. truck market three years ago.
  • The EPA is investigating whether the seven major engine makers are violating a 1998 settlement with the government by improperly encouraging sales of existing engines in order to circumvent environmental rules.

But engine manufacturers as well as others in the trucking industry deny they are violating the settlement and say that market forces alone are driving the sales.

Companies say it isn't in their interest to encourage larger sales than normal -- because after the EPA deadline passes, their orders will dry up, forcing more layoffs and wreaking havoc on their long-term production schedules.

The big fleets and some engine manufacturers want the EPA to support a postponement of the Oct. 1 deadline, which would require court approval. Environmentalists are fighting such a delay.

Source: Jeffrey Ball, "Truck Firms Go on Buying Binge to Circumvent a New EPA Rule," Wall Street Journal, May 28, 2002.


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