Cover Story
American Idle
Hooked up: OOIDA, EPA work to connect truckers and grants

By Charlie Morasch
staff writer


“The best things in life are free
But you can keep them for the birds and bees
Now give me money
That’s what I want
That’s what I want, yeah
That’s what I want”
– “Money (That’s What I Want)”
by Berry Gordy and Janie Bradford


For years, truck drivers have watched federal and state programs lob emission-reduction funding in chunks, only to see the largest chunks gobbled up by larger trucking companies.

Not only did the money not make it into the hands of small trucking operations, which haul most of the nation’s goods, but many grants were awarded to large trucking companies that have higher engine turnover anyway.

 “If you’re a large carrier with $2 million in profit, it’s a little easier to meet those standards than the one or two truck operation that’s really struggling to survive,” said Tom Weakley, director of operations for the OOIDA Foundation.

Recently, however, the Environmental Protection Agency has turned to the needs of small trucking companies to help lower emissions nationwide.

In Spring 2008, the EPA announced a new $50 million National Clean Diesel Funding Assistance Program, as well as the creation of an online finance center where small businesses and individuals could obtain competitive loan rates to buy diesel-saving technologies.

OOIDA hopes to be one of several groups that will dole out the grant money.

OOIDA has applied to administer $2 million under the nationwide program and is submitting additional proposals for regional grant funds. OOIDA applied due to the Association’s knowledge of small businesses and particularly the needs of one-man, one-truck long-haul operations, Weakley said.

 “Obviously, there are more and more idling restrictions being enforced,” Weakley said. “If we can get money to compensate some of the guys who can’t afford or are struggling to afford APUs and other devices, it will help them reduce fuel use and to meet greenhouse gas emission standards. That would be good for them and could possibly help save them from getting fines.”

The Association’s finance department currently provides low-interest loans for engine retrofit and anti-idling devices and has a unique knowledge of truck purchase laws for different U.S. states, Weakley said. If the Association is awarded administration of the funds, it plans to rebate small-business truckers approximately 40 percent of the purchase price of APUs, engine replacements, retrofits, and other devices that cut diesel emissions.

 “There’s no guarantee we’ll get that grant,” said Weakley. “We’ve made the application, and we think we have an excellent shot at it. We have a database by which we can locate small businesses, and because the one we applied for is a national grant, we’re uniquely positioned to identify small businesses in the 48 contiguous states.”

The EPA plans to announce its selections for grant administrations before the fall, Weakley said.

Individual OOIDA members will be hearing from the Association if grant money is received, and the Association also would make a public announcement.

To help small businesses obtain loans, EPA set up The Web site allows small trucking businesses to fill out one loan application before banks and other financial institutions compete to offer loan terms for APUs, wind-resistance devices and other fuel-saving technologies. LL


The money


SmartWay Finance Center

  • Provides access to private lenders nationally that will finance SmartWay approved equipment and products ranging from new trucks to APUs and tires.
  • Loans are not guaranteed by the Environmental Protection Agency
  • Savings calculator available online

Web site:
Phone: 1-877-767-8875



ADEQ Small Business Loan Program

  • Administered through the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality
  • Loans up to $45,000 at 80 percent of prime interest rate, with loan terms up to 10 years

Web site:
Phone: 1-888-233-0326

Carl Moyer Memorial Air Quality Standards Attainment Program

  • The program provides grants to pay for the incremental cost of cleaner-than-required heavy-duty on-road vehicles, auxiliary power units, and heavy duty fleet modernization, to name a few
  • Technology must meet emissions standards established by the program
  • At least 75 percent of miles run must be in California

Web site:
Phone: 1-800-242-4450

Small Business Low Interest Loan Program

  • Assists small commercial, non-profit, and manufacturing facilities with funding approved energy conservation measures (APUs)
  • Provides loans up to $35,000 at 3 percent interest (current fixed rate)
  • The Maine Public Utilities Commission’s Maine State Energy Program, administers this program.

Web site:
Phone: (207) 287-3318

MPCA Small Business Environmental Improvement Loan Program

  • Administered through the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
  • Loans up to $50,000 available at an interest rate of 4 percent or one-half of prime interest rate, whichever is greater, with loan terms up to seven years

Web site:
Phone: In Minnesota 1-800-985-4247; outside the state,
call (651) 297-8615

The New Jersey Trucker’s Challenge Grant Program

  • Total of $750,000 available
  • 50 percent of cost for APU up to maximum of $3,500
  • 75 percent of the cost for bunk heater up to a maximum of $750
  • 100 percent of the cost of an APU or bunk heater, plus a tailpipe emission control device up to a maximum $17,000
  • At least 50 percent of the miles run are in New Jersey

Web site:
Phone: (732) 254-5000          

Editor’s note: Funding is pending for the coming fiscal year.
Criteria is subject to change. Check regularly for updates.

The Small Business Express Loan

  • Available for EPA SmartWay technology upgrades for trucks
  • Interest rate on the unsecured loan is based on your credit score, but can be no more than prime plus 6.5 percent.
  • No down payment required. Repayment can be over a period of up to 10 years.

Web site:
New York Phone: (212) 387-0494
New Jersey Phone: 1-866-5ACCION (1-866-522-2466).

Everybody Wins Program

  • Administered by Cascade Sierra Solutions, a nonprofit third party
  • Restricted to Oregon base-plated trucks
  • Only fuel saving technology that falls within EPA’s SmartWay Transport Carrier Strategies is eligible for the lease-to-own program.
  • Technology of the truck owner’s choice is purchased by Cascade Sierra Solutions, which pays for the installation. The truck owner then pays back the cost over a period of 60 months at a below market interest rate. Shorter lease terms are available.

Web site:
Phone: 1-866-345-3390

Pennsylvania Small Business Advantage Grant Program

  • Wide-reaching program aimed at all small businesses
  • Provides 50 percent of matching grants, up to $7,500, for qualified technology

Web site:
Phone: (717) 772-5160

Emissions Reduction Incentive Grants Program

  • Grants limited to residency in specific counties listed on Web site
  • Funds can be used for lease, purchase, replacement or retrofit of anti-idling technology

Web site:
Phone: 1-800-919-TERP (8377)

Wisconsin Diesel Truck Idling Reduction Grant Program

  • Money designated specifically for small fleets of 50 or fewer trucks
  • Reimbursement of 50 percent of the equipment cost and installation
  • Trucks must be headquartered in Wisconsin

Web site:
Phone: (608) 261-2517 LL


Editor’s note: Many state Small Business Administrations now offer low-interest loans to small-business owners (owner-operators and small fleets) for equipment upgrades and additions. More and more states are offering these loans for SmartWay approved equipment and products. While availability is still somewhat a patchwork, checking with your state’s SBA office could really pay off. To find your state’s SBA, visit or call 1-800-827-5722.