Regulatory issues continue to dominate legislative agendas. In his annual regulatory and legislative update during this year’s Electric Utility Fleet Managers Conference, Pat O’Connor, legislative counsel for the NAFA Fleet Management Association, covered a range of topics for fleet executives to consider.
“Phase 2 greenhouse gas emissions and fuel economy standards for work trucks are an opportunity to get involved,” O’Connor said. “That includes while EPA and NHTSA are drafting proposed rules, during the comment period and as Congress exercises its oversight authority. A notice of proposed rulemaking is now expected by March 2015, and a final rule should be in place by March 2016.
“As EPA sets GHG standards, it needs data for finer segmentation of the vocational vehicle market,” O’Connor continued. “There is a lack of data on segments where there is significant idle time, and how best to define categories of idle time on a time- or fuel-consumed basis.”
Another opportunity to offer input is in regard to new clean car and fuel standards issued by the EPA. Starting in 2017, the Tier 3 new vehicle emissions standards will lower the sulfur content of gasoline, considering the vehicle and its fuel as an integrated system. Tier 3 will reduce volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxide tailpipe standards by 80 percent over today’s fleet, establish a 70 percent tighter particulate matter standard and reduce fuel vapor emissions to zero level.
Safety is also on legislative agendas. “For example,” O’Connor reported, “the National Transportation Safety Board studied the safety record of single-unit trucks in an attempt to identify appropriate countermeasures for these vehicles. In response to the findings of the study, the NTSB made nine recommendations to NHTSA and four recommendations to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
“However,” O’Connor said, “while FMCSA has little credible data with respect to the safety performance of managed fleets that include single-unit trucks, in the future it will be exploring options for setting different regulatory requirements for medium- and heavy-duty trucks. One option mentioned was to make a distinction for mandated fleets in the federal motor vehicle safety regulations.”
On March 31 of this year, O’Connor also told EUFMC attendees, NHTSA issued a final rule that, by May 2018, all new vehicles under 10,000 pounds GVWR must be equipped with rear-visibility technology. Approved systems will expand the field of view to enable the driver to detect areas behind the vehicle in an effort to reduce deaths and injuries resulting from backing incidents. Manufacturers have petitioned to allow cameras as an option to the conventional side-view and rearview mirrors.
For utility fleets, according to O’Connor, getting involved in these issues can help avoid having technology forced upon them when new standards are implemented, and can help legislators and regulators consider incentives that will lead to true fuel-saving and safety solutions. By bringing data into the decision-making process, including information on diverse and unique vehicle duty cycles, fleets will also be better positioned to address life-cycle and capital budget challenges and serve as a more valuable resource to senior management.
“Public policy includes legislation, regulations, implementation and enforcement activity, and administrative actions,” O’Connor said. “Engagement by fleet managers can inform and influence public policy.”