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ROAD TO 2010: Engine rule details still cloudy for truckers

SAN DIEGO -- There are only 413 days left before new 2010 EPA-mandated engines are the standard in North America, but truck and engine makers are finding out they have their work cut out in educating customers on the rules and the types of technologies that will be available.

According to a new report by Greensboro, N.C.-based Quixote Group -- in conjunction with Heavy Duty Trucking magazine -- a sizable proportion of truckers still don't understand what the upcoming emission regulation standards are all about and many seemingly don't have a firm grasp of the differences between selective catalytic reduction (SCR) technology and enhanced or "massive" EGR (exhaust gas recirculation).

The conclusions of the survey -- one of the few in North America which attempts to gauge the attitudes of truck buyers and fleet maintenance professionals towards 2010 equipment -- were reported yesterday at the Diesel Exhaust Fluid Forum in San Diego.

The survey found that only 60 percent of respondents (close to 1,000 fleet people and owner-ops) were aware that NOx is the main pollutant being tackled by the '10 EPA rules. And just over a third mistakenly believe that C02 is the emission targeted in the regulation.


A Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) tank system mounted on a truck frame

Large fleet managers (101 or more trucks), and maintenance people had a much better understanding of NOx's inclusion in the rule (81% and 73% respectively), while only 53 percent of small fleet respondents and 46 percent of owner-ops said they were aware.

All but one truck OEM is committed to SCR, the method adopted in Europe, which uses the nitrogen containing reducing agent, urea, in the exhaust gas upstream of the catalyst to eliminate NOx. Navistar International is instead going with an advanced version of EGR, the technology employed for most 2007 models.

Basically, SCR -- while expected to be pricier upfront -- promises to improve fuel economy by about 3 to 5 percent. EGR, rather, will not need aftertreatment, but is expected to suffer a fuel penalty by about 2-3 percent.

When quizzed on their knowledge of the available technologies, a majority of respondents didn't know the notable benefits of SCR, such as fewer active regenerations (35%); fuel savings (39%), reduced particulate output (43%); and less engine heat rejection (37%).

Owner-ops, specifically, were the most unaware. Only 25 percent could say SCR delivers better fuel economy, which is the main selling point for the majority OEMs marketing that technology.

The good news for SCR suppliers is that most respondents (42%) indicate that fuel economy is the most important factor when considering a new truck purchase. 

Also, About half of the trucking companies that own or operate a majority of International trucks would likely purchase SCR in 2010. Likewise, about 60 percent of the trucking companies that own or operate a majority of Freightliner, Paccar or Volvo trucks are likely to purchase SCR model.

"When given the choice of SCR with the fuel economy advantage, SCR is more popular by a ratio of 3-1," said Charles Mattina, president of Quixote.

However, with only a year before the new engines hit the market, Mattina acknowledged that SCR proponents should start ramping up their marketing departments.

"(You) don't have a product problem," he told SCR stakeholders, "you, as was said in Cool Hand Luke, 'have a failure to communicate.'"

 

-- CORRECTION: A previous version of the this article mistakenly stated that half of respondents looking to buy SCR would buy an International truck, despite that OEM not offering that technology. Rather, the article should read as above (that half of International buyers would consider SCR instead, as would about 60 percent of customers from other brands).

 

 
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