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May 19, 2017 3:30 PM, EDT
New DTNA Chief Roger Nielsen Says GHG Rule Will Stick
Nielsen by Jonathan S. Reiskin/Transport Topics
MADRAS, Ore. — Fleet owners should not expect the truck and engine sections of the federal Phase 2 rule on greenhouse gas emissions to change before implementation starts in 2021, said Roger Nielsen, the CEO of Daimler Trucks North America.

Speaking to reporters and editors at a company event here May 18, Nielsen gave credit to the Obama administration for developing the complicated rule in a logical fashion.

“We did a great job with the previous administration to produce a doable, viable rule within the realm of technological possibilities — and I don’t see that changing,” said Nielsen, who has been CEO of North America’s largest truck maker since April 1.

Although the Trump administration has been searching for Obama-era regulations to rescind or modify, Nielsen said GHG Phase 2 lays out an orderly but challenging long-term path to lower carbon dioxide emissions that will be accomplished by building more fuel-efficient trucks.

In his first press conference since succeeding Martin Daum as CEO, Nielsen also spoke about North America’s heavy-duty truck sales market and his promotion from chief operating officer. He spoke in conjunction with DTNA’s opening of its new High Desert Proving Grounds test facility.

In the Daimler AG first-quarter report released in April, DTNA’s parent company forecast growth in both the world and U.S. economies. Despite that, the prediction for North American Classes 6-8 sales this year was for flat versus 2016 or a continuing dip.

While truck makers always welcome an expanding economy, Nielsen said traditional production cycles now are doing more to influence sales.

“2015 was a peak for sales, and all of that buying brought down the average ages of trucks for fleets,” Nielsen said, adding that most of those 2105 trucks still are in good shape.

Most of the DTNA Freightliners and Western Star trucks traded in now are from 2012 and 2013, he said. When it is time for the 2015s to be traded in, that should boost sales significantly.

Nielsen said that refrigerated and flatbed carriers are ordering more now, but the large dry van, truckload segment is not as prosperous.

An Oregon native, Nielsen started with DTNA in 1986 and has been chief operating officer since 2001.

The executive ladder within Daimler changed earlier this year when Wolfgang Bernhard left suddenly as head of Daimler’s global trucks division. Daum was brought home by Daimler to succeed Bernhard, and one of Daum’s first decisions was to promote Nielsen as his successor.

Nielsen, who has a commercial driver license and has been known to drive a Class 8 tractor to his eye doctor, noted a change because of the promotion.

“I now understand that my opinion counts,” he said. After observing offhandedly that he didn’t care for a company tweet, “I went back an hour later to look for it, and it was gone.”