Need a New Rig But Concerned About Uncertainty in the Regulatory World? What Are Your Options?

If you're an owner-operator (OO) who drives for a living, the relative well-being of your rig is likely one of your top concerns and priorities. After all, having your semi truck sitting in the shop awaiting repair means it can't be on the road helping you earn money. However, in an uncertain political climate (one in which the EPA is seen as under attack), you may be reluctant to spend tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars on a new truck if the environmental regulations that have contributed to its higher price are rolled back or rendered moot.

Read on to learn more about some of the EPA-mandated changes to the way semi trucks operate, as well as your options if these changes wind up being repealed before they take effect. 

What changes are poised to come to the trucking world?

In an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the EPA and U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) promulgated a number of rules addressing the way heavy-duty trucks operate—from limiting their ability to idle in place to requiring manufacturers to improve fuel economy for new vehicles before they can be made available for retail sale. These regulations are designed to reduce fuel costs while also making the air cleaner; however, they've come under attack by industry specialists and others who cite the cost to manufacturers to implement these changes. 

Some of these changes include body streamlining to improve the truck's aerodynamics (and therefore fuel efficiency), as well as limiters that affect the length of time a truck can idle in one place. In many parts of the country, especially very warm or cold climates, truckers who are parking for the night rely on their engines to power the space heaters, air conditioning units, and other amenities used to keep the cabin a comfortable temperature. Under the new regulations, this activity will be strictly curtailed and truckers will need to rely on battery power rather than diesel fuel to keep these accessories running. 

Although these regulations primarily affect newly manufactured vehicles, they can also impact existing ones, especially when it comes to resale price—few are willing to pay top dollar for a make or model that no longer complies with existing emissions standards or that may require retrofitting if new and even more restrictive standards are later promulgated.

Should you wait to purchase your next rig until after this regulatory uncertainty passes? 

Those who have analyzed the impact of the EPA and DOT regulations have estimated that it would cost approximately $12,000 per vehicle to comply with these new standards; although the EPA has not mandated trucking companies to retrofit their current fleets, some have already begun to set aside funds for necessary upgrades.

However, the recent presidential election and resulting Cabinet picks, including an anti-regulation EPA candidate, have rendered the future of these regulations uncertain. This type of uncertainty is rarely welcome among large businesses that have trouble quickly making (or undoing) decisions, like automakers, but can sometimes be a boon to a self-employed driver who is flexible and in a good position to strike on deals quickly.

In many cases, you may be better off purchasing a used truck that doesn't quite meet the EPA and DOT emissions specifications rather than investing in a new vehicle that may include efficiency measures that will soon no longer be required by federal law. Because these trucks are still available at a discounted price due to the still-active EPA regulations, you could find a great deal that will keep you on the road regardless of which political party holds office. 

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