EPA Should Delay OBD Rule, Groups Say

By Andrea Fischer, Staff Reporter

This story appears in the April 16 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

The Environmental Protection Agency should consider delaying its onboard diagnostics requirement for heavy-duty truck engines to give manufacturers time to develop emission sensors, according to several trucking groups.

At the same time, engine manufacturers said they should be able to meet EPA’s requirements, as long as the agency loosens its standards for the onboard emission-monitoring devices.

EPA late last year proposed regulations that would require engine manufacturers to phase in onboard electronic reporting devices starting in 2010. Beginning in 2013, all truck engines would have to meet the requirements, EPA said (12-18 & 25, p. 4).

The devices would monitor the more complex truck emission-control systems needed to meet stringent new standards by scanning particulate filters, catalytic converters and other emission-treatment systems for possible malfunctions. They would store information in the engine’s computer to assist in the diagnosis and repairs.

“Trucking fleets purchasing 2010 engines should not be used as guinea pigs to test the effectiveness and accuracy of untested sensor technologies,” American Trucking Associations said in comments to EPA.

The agency should “carefully monitor the progress being made on particulate matter sensor technology development and, if necessary, consider moving the current implementation date” of the requirement if manufacturers cannot overcome “legitimate technology hurdles” by the end of this year, said ATA.

Calls by Transport Topics to EPA were not returned.

The agency published a formal notice of proposed rulemaking on Jan. 24, with a comment period open until March 24. Following a request from the Engine Manufacturers Association, the agency has extended the comment period to May 4.

“We’re comfortable with EPA’s phased-in timeline. Meeting the requirements of this regulation would be challenging, but feasible for manufacturers,” EMA President Jed Mandel told TT.

But, he added, “We think EPA needs to change the thresholds at which these new emissions sensors are triggered; we think some of the specific limits they suggested are too stringent.”

Engine makers Cummins, Volvo and Caterpillar deferred to EMA’s comments.

However, many engine manufacturers have not finalized designs to meet EPA’s 2010 emission standards, and therefore have not yet developed sensors for the engines, which could be a problem for truckers, said Peter Vroom, president of the Truck Renting and Leasing Association.

EPA “may need to consider delaying this regulation if it looks like the sensor technology is not going to be there in time for 2010,” said Vroom. “EPA needs to look at this as a whole picture, because if the sensor technology isn’t there [in 2010] but the engine technology is, that could create some real problems.”

Similarly, Doug Greenhaus, director of environment health and safety for the National Automobile Dealers Association, which also represents heavy-duty truck dealers through its American Truck Dealers unit, said EPA should consider a delay.

“EPA has to really go back to the drawing board on this one,” he said. “There are so many potential flaws. We hope they don’t rush out a medium- and heavy-duty truck OBD requirement until such time as major technological and service issues are addressed.”

“Truckers cannot afford to take time off the road to find out that the OBD system is not working properly for whatever reason,” said Greenhaus. “Every minute they are down is money lost.”

Meanwhile, top environmental officials in two states said they were urging EPA to move forward with the regulation as proposed.

“Heavy-duty vehicles . . . have an extended useful life often lasting hundreds of thousands of miles,” so the need “to detect emissions-related problems throughout the operational period is important in reducing” truck emissions, said David Schanbacher, chief engineer for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

Robert Sawyer, chairman of the California Air Resources Board, said EPA should “move forward in an expeditious manner to finalize the [proposed] rule.”

California adopted its own onboard diagnostics rule in 2005, which will apply to a limited number of model-year 2010 trucks, and all 2013 trucks, said Michael McCarthy, manager of advanced engineering for CARB.


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