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For owner-operators, EPA’s SmartWay program sort of dumb

CHICAGO — Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christine Whitman announced the agency’s “SmartWay Transport” program here Jan. 10. The program is a voluntary effort to improve air quality, reduce greenhouse emissions, save fuel and protect public health.

Partners vowing to take measures such as idle reduction and load matching include shippers, carriers and industry suppliers for railroads and trucks. However, no attempt was made to include the more than 400,000 owner-operators and small fleets.

When asked if there were incentives for owner-operators, Whitman said they would benefit by saving fuel. However, most incentives — such as load matching and more efficient scheduling — are geared to fleets and are said to save more than 200 gallons of diesel per truck per year. Owner-operators would be hard pressed to implement such programs.

EPA also wants driver training, which includes use of cruise control and driving more slowly. But no mention was made of loss of driver compensation.

EPA says idling reduction alone can save up to 2,000 gallons of diesel per truck per year. However, most partner fleets such as Roadway, FedEx, UPS and Yellow operate day cabs that do not idle. Participating carriers get to use the program logo. The EPA encourages shippers to do business with them.

In the absence of any financial incentives for participation, Whitman said fuel savings would be sufficient to encourage equipment investment. For example, tire inflation devices are expected to save $300 per year in tire replacement costs, and reduce fuel consumption by at least 90 gallons per year for a typical tractor-trailer, EPA says.

EPA used classic conventional trucks as a basis for aerodynamic savings, although most trucks already have advanced aerodynamics such as air shields and cab extenders.

DOE’s effort vs. EPA’s
EPA believes driver training will lead to increased use of cruise control, reduced freeway speeds and less idling. While a noble goal, the SmartWay program pales in comparison with Department of Energy initiatives under way for more than two years.

EPA targets 150 million gallons of diesel annually from both trucks and railroads. DOE says its programs will result in 875 million gallons saved from trucks alone. Also, DOE joined the Diesel Idling Reduction Partnership (DIRP), a grassroots trucking industry organization founded at least year’s Great American Trucking Show in Dallas.

DOE is funding DIRP’s education efforts for the Mid-America Trucking Show in March. Pony Pack is also a member of DIRP. Its president, Rex Greer, is DIRP’s interim president.

DOE’s “More Electric Truck Program” and other DOE initiatives will ultimately reduce Class 8 truck fuel use by 9 percent, or 1.5 percent of the nation’s total annual fuel consumption, the agency says. SmartWay Transport, the EPA program, is targeting total savings of 0.1 percent, or one-fifteenth of DOE goals.

—by Paul Abelson