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A study analyzes the role of diesels in US economy

1 December 2000

The Washington, DC-based Diesel Technology Forum has published a report titled “Diesel Technology and the American Economy”, prepared by Charles River Associates. The 97-page report analyzes the role of the diesel engine in the US economy and concludes that the current prosperity and the future economic growth of the nation is strategically linked to diesel power.

The study attributes much of the US’ current economic success to the role played by diesel engines, which power 94% of all freight moving in trucks, trains, boats and barges; two-thirds of all farm machinery; more than 95% of all public transit buses, and all heavy construction machinery. The annual gross output of the diesel industry manufacturing diesel equipment, fuel and related materials, which exceeds $85 billion, is greater than the combined gross value of all the computer hardware and office machines manufactured in America.

According to the report, while freight traffic increased nearly 25% in the last decade, the cost of moving those goods has declined by 4%, due to the progressive efficiency of diesel-powered transportation. Diesel power is so efficient and reliable that replacing it with the “next best” alternative would increase freight cost by 56% for trucking and by 48% for rail, slowing overall economic growth and reducing productivity. Due to power and size limitations of gasoline engines, freight companies would require 50% more trucks to haul the same amount of freight as diesel costing a minimum of $35 billion a year in increased labor costs.

The economic advantages of diesel technology extend onto energy conservation. The study notes that introduction of diesel powered light-duty vehicles - cars, light duty trucks and SUV’s—would dramatically reduce petroleum use across the country. An increase in the proportion of diesel engines in these vehicles to just 25% over the next twenty years would reduce petroleum use by 345,000 barrels each day—an amount equivalent to cutting by 75% the total daily energy use for transportation in New York.

Diesel Technology Forum is a new lobbying group formed in March by the US diesel industry. Among the companies participating in the Diesel Technology Forum are: Caterpillar, Cummins, Delco Remy, Detroit Diesel, Donaldson, Eaton, ExxonMobil, General Motors, Honeywell Int’l, JCB, and Komatsu.

Download the report (pdf, 449k)