Black smoke was once the inky signature of diesel engines everywhere. Now it has all but disappeared. A 1998 Model Year truck actually belched 35 times more smog-producing NOx and 60 times more Particulate Matter than equipment built to meet 2010 emissions standards, and that’s before regulators turned their attention to Greenhouse Gases.
The trucking industry’s environmental gains have not been limited to diesel, of course. Clean-burning fuels from natural gas to propane autogas, and even battery power, are now viable options – especially where medium-duty trucks and predictable operating ranges are involved. Nikola Motors has taken a further leap, pledging to produce electric Class 8 trucks as early as 2020.
Still, there is no mistaking a change in the underlying business climate. Steep diesel prices helped to make the business case for alternative-fueled equipment, which tends to come with premium price tags. Now diesel is relatively cheap. A new administration in the White House, meanwhile, wants to slash funding for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which largely sets the emissions rules applied to equipment sold in Canada.