Extendable trailer specs

GHG trailer decision muted by California rules, industry leadership

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A DC appeals court ruling exempts trailers from federal greenhouse gas and fuel efficiency rules, but California mandates will create the same technology standards for many fleets, while others adopt the technology because of its economic interest.

The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled 2-to-1 on Nov. 12 that the Environmental Protection Agency and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration cannot enforce a joint 2016 rule on greenhouse gases and energy efficiency governing commercial vehicle trailers.

The rule represented the first time the agencies had set greenhouse gas and fuel efficiency standards for trailers. This required manufacturers to adopt a combination of fuel-saving technologies such as side skirts and automatic tire pressure systems.

The Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association opposed it, leading the court in 2017 to grant its motion to suspend the EPA’s portion of the trailer rule, then suspend the NHTSA’s portion in 2020. The rule was to come into effect on January 1, 2021.
The court ruled that the agencies could not enforce the Phase 2 rule for greenhouse gas emissions and fuel efficiency standards for medium and heavy-duty engines and vehicles. The case was Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association v. Environmental Protection Agency, et al, with California Air Resources Board, et al, acting as intervenors.

The appeal period has not yet passed. The EPA declined to comment on the decision. NHTSA does not comment on ongoing litigation.

The court ruled against the regulations because the trailers are not “motor vehicles,” as defined in the law the EPA cited, or “medium- or heavy-duty commercial highway vehicles,” such as defined by the law on which NHTSA relied. .
“The trailers, however, don’t have a motor. They are therefore not ‘motor vehicles,’” Judge Justin Walker wrote in the notice. “Nor are they ‘vehicles’ when that term is used in the context of a vehicle’s fuel economy, since non-engine vehicles are not fuel efficient.”

Bill Hicks, SAF Product Manager for SAF-Holland, said the industry prefers an organic process over mandates.

“The process allows each OEM to adapt to change in their own way rather than a mandatory change that could have substantial short and long term impacts on their products and manufacturing systems,” he said. stated in an e-mail response to questions. . “In reality, I see a more ‘blended’ approach that will be between government and industry, where some aspects will be regulatory mandates, and other changes will grow organically via market demand because of the benefits recognized value it will provide.”

It’s usually best for products to grow organically, agreed Benjamin Brown, vice president of key account management/head of North American sales for commercial vehicles for ZF Group, which sells products for the trailer market. However, he noted that governments have also historically driven the adoption of new environmental technologies.

Mike Roeth, executive director of the North American Council for Freight Efficiency, ponders the longer-term implications of the decision. As future technologies come to market, such as products that use regenerative braking to power trailer components, some of them could benefit from regulations.

U.S. trucking associations initially supported the rule because many fleets specified the technology because of its proven business case, said Glen Kedzie, the ATA’s energy and environment council. The cost of products such as trailer skirts and gap reducers are covered by the fuel efficiency improvements they provide. There was no significant opposition to the rule among stakeholders.

In its appeal decision, the DC court ruled that the trailers are not “vehicles” in the context of their fuel consumption. (Deflection)

“We were going to get there anyway,” he said. “We were heading in that direction. Fleets were making these investments because for the first time ever, it was an investment to reduce emissions where you would find a break-even point, primarily your return on investment, in a short period of time.

Kedzie said the ruling may have limited practical effect because, while the circuit court ruled against the federal regulator, it said nothing about state rules. The California Air Resources Board has had trailer rules in place for years, and federal and California trailer regulations were designed to harmonize.

Kedzie said California is such a big state that any rules it passes affect the policies of many fleets. If they’re traveling to California, they’ll want to make sure their trailers are compliant.

“Even if it’s just one state, it causes, I don’t mean a de facto national standard, but a great incentive to make sure your equipment will be compliant if it ends up going through the state of California,” Kedzie said.
Dave Clegern, CARB’s public information manager for climate change programs, said the decision would not affect California regulations. Kedzie has not heard of any legal challenges to the California rules.

Kedzie said he is also watching what happens with Canada’s rules. That country postponed until May 3 its own trailer standards, which were aligned with standards adopted by the EPA and NHTSA.

The decision also won’t have a huge effect on adoption because fleets were already shifting to key technologies: skirts, low rolling resistance tires and tire pressure management systems, Roeth said. He said that, based on discussions with fleets and manufacturers, these technologies already have a 70% adoption rate because their business case is so strong and simple. A full range of accessories can reduce fuel consumption by 15%.

Meanwhile, fuel and emissions saving technologies for tractors can be complex.

ZF Group’s Brown expects trailer makers to focus on fuel-saving solutions that match original equipment, are easy to install, and offer predictable performance and good handling. return on investment. Trailer skirts fit this description and are the most widely adopted fuel saving technology. He said his company’s skirts provide an average of 5% fuel savings at highway speeds. Nose fairings, which are installed at the front of the trailer to reduce drag, also provide fuel savings, while the company’s ZF OptimFlow rear fairings deliver 4.3% fuel savings at top speed. highway.

Current supply chain issues are of concern. Brown cited the increasing cost and availability of raw materials such as nylon resin. He said his company uses a dual-source strategy to mitigate supply chain bottlenecks.

Jeff Geoffroy, director of marketing and business development for Peterson Manufacturing, which supplies lighting and harness systems to the heavy-duty market, said customers have focused on reducing weight to improve fuel efficiency and increase capacity, which reduces greenhouse gas emissions. He said the LED lights have dramatically reduced the electrical current needed for trailers, allowing harnesses to be made with thinner, lighter wires.

One technology that has declined in adoption is tails, Roeth said. Progressive fleets installed them when the technology was introduced, but their need to be deployed before traveling and closed when stationary has led many drivers to neglect using them. There were also durability issues.

The original manufacturer, ATDynamics, was purchased by Stemco, who have since discontinued them. But other manufacturers have entered the market with products that don’t save as much fuel but also have fewer problems, Roeth said.

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