Truck makers look to ’07

While fleets are still trying to understand the operating ramifications of the Oct. ’02 emissions regulations, truck makers have turned their focus to 2007 and the next clean-air hurdle for diesels. In individual interviews with head executives, the call was made over and over again for early agreement on a single technology path to meet those far more stringent ’07 levels. Fleets are gaining more confidence in the cooled EGR technology as they put miles on the new ’02 engines, although they are reporting a consistent 3 to 5% decrease in fuel economy, says Nick Panza, general manager of Peterbilt Motors. Carriers “running heavy and fast” are actually seeing little, if any difference in MPG, he adds. “We’re much more concerned about ’07,” says Rainer Schmueckle, president and CEO of Freightliner LLC. “This time (’02) the problem was a timing issue. The next time it will be a technology issue.” The potential fly in the ointment revolves around an exhaust aftertreatment technology called selective catalytic reduction (SCR), which injects urea or ammonia into the exhaust stream. European engine makers have already decided to use SCR to meet their next emissions cut in 2005, but the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has expressed doubts about the system since it requires a new infrastructure to distribute urea, and if trucks do not refill urea holding tanks, engine emissions will climb drastically. “SCR is not the only avenue to meeting ’07,” says Paul Vikner, president and CEO of Mack Trucks. “But we need to apply science to the issue, not speculation, and at a pace that allows us to make a smooth transition.” The issue is especially crucial for Mack since with its parent, Volvo Trucks of North America, it plans to introduce an entirely new family of engines in the same timeframe.International is also “confident and comfortable with the various proposed technology solutions, but we need to settle early with EPA on the technology path,” says Steve Keate, president of International’s truck group. “We’ve already started working with industry associations to do just that.” It’s important that EPA at least consider SCR as a potential approach, says Schmueckle, since both European and American emissions standards essentially converge in 2010 and different approaches for the two markets could prove unnecessarily costly. “We can do it without SCR, but we also believe it is the technology with the most (emissions reduction) potential,” he adds. “But no matter what path we choose, the industry needs to have an answer by the end of the year so we can make the transition properly.”

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