Planning for future emissions standards is like trying to drive through the fog, unable to see what lays ahead. That was the fleet manager’s perspective from Paul Rosa, senior vice-president of procurement and fleet planning with Penske, speaking on a panel at the American Trucking Associations Management Conference & Exhibition on Decoding Tomorrow’s Powertrain Landscape.
“As a fleet, we’re driving in a fog. We don’t quite know what’s ahead of us, what we have to be prepared for or what we’re up against,” he said. “We’re all working in the blind as fleets until these decisions are really finalized. It’s very, very challenging.”
He was referring to the various emissions standards in play in the U.S. at the state and federal levels. He worries about the California market, in particular, where there could be a pre-buy leading up to 2027 requirements that will make it difficult for fleets to get the equipment they need. And once those standards go into place as written, OEMs will be limited to how many trucks they can sell in the state, based on the number of zero-emission trucks they deploy. A growing percentage of their total vehicle sales in California will have to be zero-emission trucks, which of course come with unique challenges such as a lack of charging infrastructure.
“I feel bad for California fleets, OEMs and dealers,” Rosa said. “There’s not going to be enough trucks for California, plain and simple. I’m really worried about that.”
He listed diesel, gasoline, natural gas, renewable natural gas, battery-electric vehicles, hydrogen fuel cell, hybrids, and hydrogen internal combustion engines as some of the options that will be considered.
“Customers are saying ‘Please help. We can’t make heads or tails of this’,” Rosa said, adding the goal posts are constantly moving. “It’s so frustrating. We have to be practical with our customers and realistic to our own leaders.”
Penske’s approach is to trial every option available in a targeted manner in as many applications as possible to determine which option is the best fit. “I hope that the fog clears up sometime soon so that sounder decisions can be made with complete information and we are able to have a nice clear driver where we can see the turns and prepare for them,” he said.
What about RNG?
But Andrew Okuyiga, vice-president of public affairs at UPS, worries legislators are overlooking one effective option when it comes to slashing carbon emissions: renewable natural gas. This has become a favorite technology at UPS and is carbon negative. Methane, which is harmful to the environment (80 times as potent as CO2) and produced in abundance at dairy farms, is converted into natural gas that is not only cheaper than diesel but also carbon negative since it prevents methane from entering the environment.
“RNG is our most important tool to reduce UPS’s carbon emissions from our ground fleet,” said Okuyiga. “When we look at the cost of RNG vehicles versus electric, the price is dramatically lower and the total cost of operation is dramatically lower. This is the reason we’ve leaned into RNG.”
But emerging emissions standards are not always accommodating RNG, something Okuyiga would like to see changed. “We could be forced to move from the most effective way to remove carbon from our network to more expensive and less effective ways to do it,” he said.
Sean Waters, vice-president of product compliance and regulatory affairs for Daimler Truck North America, vowed OEMs will meet the tough new emissions standards on the horizon, but it won’t be easy. In California, for instance, as early as 2024, truck and engine makers will have to meet increasingly stringent requirements as a percentage of their total build.
“The standards get tougher each year,” he explained. “In California, we will have to start with how many zero-emission vehicles we sell and backwards calculate how many combustion engines we can sell under the rule.”
This means more information will have to be provided at the time of purchase on where the truck will be registered so that truck makers can remain in compliance with California’s own rules. Those standards, by 2027, will realign with the EPA’s national requirements. Waters’ biggest concern remains charging and fueling infrastructure.
“The success of the rule depends on infrastructure being ready and available for customers to charge their trucks when they buy them,” he said.
Matt Spears, executive director for global regulatory affairs with Cummins, noted a recent agreement between the Engine Manufacturers Association and the California Air Resources Board promises the two groups will work together on future emissions standards.
“This [agreement] was to provide regulatory stability and certainty for the entire industry. We will continue to engage with EMA and CARB to resolve any issues that come up,” he said.
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