12 March 2004

The US Congress’ General Accounting Office (GAO) has published its long expected report on the US 2007 emission standards for heavy-duty diesel engines. The report—titled “Air Pollution: EPA Could Take Additional Steps to Help Maximize the Benefits from the 2007 Diesel Emissions Standards”—supports the trucking industry, who was seeking Congressional aid to offset the increased cost of 2007-compliant engines. The GAO recommended that EPA form an independent panel to asses technology progress to meet the 2007 standards and consider financial incentives for the trucking industry. The incentives would minimize pre-buying of older engines before the new standards take effect, as happened before October 2002.

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The GEO report identifies a number of concerns with the 2007 standards, such as the availability of new technologies and providing engine prototypes for testing by trucking companies at least 18 to 24 months before the 2007 deadline. The trucking industry is also concerned that the new engines may be too costly and much less fuel efficient. GEO concludes that the industry needs more reassurance—such as from an independent review panel—that the technology will be ready on time and additional assistance—such as economic incentives—to encourage timely purchases of trucks with the new technologies.

The EPA expressed concerns about some of GAO’s findings. In particular, EPA opposed the idea of an independent panel review and said that such a panel could delay progress. Last week the EPA issued its own 2007 progress review report, which concludes that engine manufacturers are on target to meet the 2007 standards. Diesel particulate filters will be used by all manufacturers reduce PM emissions, said EPA. “NOx control will be accomplished using proven technologies some of which are in production today”—a reference to cooled EGR and the Caterpillar ACERT engines. EPA also said that engine manufacturers will conduct early prototype testing with trucking customers in 2005.

These issues will be discussed during the coming trucking industry summit in Florida, which will be attended by officials from both the GAO and the EPA.

Source: GAO