January 22, 2007 8:00 AM, EST

Letters to the Editor: EPA and Engines; Onboard Diagnostics

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EPA and EnginesOnce again, the great Environmental Protection Agency has brainwashed the public in the name of environmental protection. As a small fleet owner of longhaul flatbed equipment, our injectors and fuel systems are taking a beating in the name of conservation. I think it is a farce to force owner-operators and large fleets to change equipment, basically upgrading the engines at a tremendous cost, while trying to police the world in the name of the EPA. I think the EPA is out of control. Why doesn’t it have an oversight committee?Without an additive to oil the engine and injectors, the new ultra-low-sulfur fuel is financially crippling the industry. Biofuel may come along, but in the interim there is not enough distribution and engine failures are happening.The industry is being deluged with electronic malfunctions and burnt-out fuel injectors because they are not getting enough oil. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to determine that, if you rub two pieces of steel together without a lubricant, it will get hot and burn out. And injector and pump failures are not under warranty if fuel is determined to have caused the problem.When there was a truck wreck in years past, there was no fire unless it involved another vehicle with gasoline. Now, just about every truck wreck is having a fire.Larry JacksonOwnerJ&J Truck Service Co.Waxahachie, TexasOnboard DiagnosticsIt is very hard to control the many costs of the transportation industry unless you have the capital or buying power to manipulate your vendors.Onboard diagnostics just add to the cost of everyone’s operations. Now we are going to train drivers to work on their trucks again. (Many of the older drivers will tell you they could work on mechanical engines, but not the new technology.)How can we train the drivers to work on the trucks when the service industry side of the truck-engine manufacturers can barely keep pace with training their own personnel?Do we ask the service personnel to become indentured servants? As soon as many are trained by the original equipment manufacturers, they leave with their training to work somewhere more convenient for them, i.e., closer to home, first shift instead of third. Or they go to work for themselves.I am sorry to say that many drivers don’t even want to drive the truck they are in. They only do it because they have no alternative because of their education level, the location of their residence or the economics of their local community.As I have it figured right now, it costs us (using estimates on the high side of certain costs) $1.45 per mile to operate our equipment. That is without profit.Even though I am not old enough to remember the days of trucking industry regulation, I think I would like to have it back. It would improve safety more than the current free-for-all. Don’t get me wrong — competition is good, but only to certain levels.It would allow the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to focus on fewer carriers for safety administration, along with forcing those who are financially strapped to either improve or get out of the market.We, as carriers, are competing for a finite number of shipments in a finite number of locations — usually at the same time. Rates and availability are the only things separating many carriers. We all have trucks, drivers and trailers. What else is the difference?Terry BlackwellVice PresidentUgly Truck Beautiful ServiceVilla Rica, Ga.These letters appear in the Jan. 22 print edition of Transport Topics. Subscribe today.