Emission Regulations: What You Need to Know

What you need to know about engine emissions

Construction equipment is changing at a rapid clip. This includes technologies such as telematics, sensors and more being embedded into equipment in an effort to make the fleet more productive and efficient.

However, engines are also changing—due to new engine emission regulations—and this could have a long-term impact on the construction industry.

According to Allen Schaeffer, executive director, Diesel Technology Forum, in the construction industry, 98 percent of all energy use comes from diesel, and construction accounts for 55 percent of off-road fuel use in the U.S.

“Achieving the optimum balance of power, performance, durability, efficiency and low emissions in the many different sizes and types of machines, and meeting all the customer demands has been a juggling act of the last decade,” he says. “Doing all that at the lowest cost in a very competitive marketplace has been a challenge … and that will not change.”

Add in new regulations related to engine emissions, as well as the evolution of real-time data collection, and there is currently a confluence of trends that are changing the equipment on the construction jobsite.

Regulations Galore

Back in 2004, the U.S. EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) challenged diesel engine and equipment makers to reduce emissions from a wide range of diesel engines used in the construction industry.

In 2008, manufacturers responded with increasingly low-emissions technology, which lead up to the current generation of Tier 4 Final equipment.

The Tier 4 Final emissions standards resulted in a 90 percent reduction in particulate matter (PM) and nitrous oxide (NOx) emissions from wheel loaders, backhoes, excavators, and bulldozers compared to Tier 1-3, according to Diesel Technology Forum.

“Emissions regulations and achieving Tier 4 have dominated investments in research and development at OEMs for the last decade,” says Schaeffer. “The fruits are visible in new near-zero level emission machines. They enable contractors to up their green credentials and bid on projects with the most stringent environmental specs, and in some instance earn LEED credits for building construction.”

The advent of regulations continues to evolve across the pond as well. On July 5, 2016, the European Parliament approved the Stage 5 emissions rule for non-road engines, capturing engines less than 19kW and greater than 560kW for the first time. These regulations are due to be implemented beginning in 2019 and mandate a new emissions performance standard known as particle number standard.

Schaeffer says compliance strategies for the Stage 5 requirements will likely build off the strategies manufacturers selected for the existing Stage 4 (Tier 4 in U.S.) compliance.

And this is just the beginning.

In addition to clean air-related emission considerations, a pivot is also taking place toward efficiency and lowering greenhouse gas emissions, as well.

On August 16, 2016, the U.S. EPA and NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Admin.) finalized second-phase requirements for on-road heavy-duty trucks that will require gains of up to 40 percent efficiency by 2027 for tractor-trailer combinations.

“While the prospect of any efficiency or fuel economy requirement in the off-road sector appears non-existent at the moment,” explains Schaeffer. “Reducing fuel consumption and improving work efficiency have been concerns of OEMs long before EPA began regulating CO2.”

So where do all these changing regulations leave the construction industry? The long-term impact might be something construction companies want to keep in mind.

For instance, Technavio says governments across the world have drafted emission regulation acts, which mandate the use of efficient technologies such as industrial turbochargers to minimize air emissions.

The analyst firm also forecasts the global industrial turbocharger market will grow at a compound annual growth rate of more than 4 percent between 2016 and 2020.

In fact, the company says adherence to regulations is driving the adoption of new technologies in equipment that reduce gases and limits carbon emissions.

Technavio Senior Industry Manager Sayani Roy adds, the state of California has been observing the developments in Europe and may frame their regulations similar to the European Union’s Stage 5.

Impact on Construction

More often, contractors are relying on equipment dealers or OEMs (original-equipment manufacturers) to inform them about changing regulations, but it is more than just regulatory compliance that contractors need to keep in mind.

“(The regulations) have been changing for a reason,” says Schaeffer. “Yes, there are additional costs and new things to learn, but it is important to remember that by investing in these new technology machines, equipment operators and construction company CEOs are leaders in making the air cleaner, using less fuel and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

This is an opportunity for contractors to position themselves as a “green” builder with all the tools and equipment in place to meet environmental credentials.

However, in order to properly use the new technology on machines, training becomes key.

“Don’t assume that the way things have always been done is the way for new equipment,” says Schaeffer. “Are oil drain intervals the same? Are the oil specifications the same? Do you need to stock new filters or service fluids? What about the emissions system maintenance? DPF regeneration may be a new consideration for some operators. 

"By investing the time up front with everyone on your team to understand the new machine, you can maximize the investment’s productivity and potential, while ensuring safety and getting your job done. Think of it as orientation for a new employee.”

Roy adds that many contractors are finding it challenging to keep pace with the ever-changing regulations of the construction industry because of the time and costs involved.

“In order to stay updated with the latest news, contractors are advised to regularly go through industry publications, technology blogs, and visit the U.S. EPA Website to track the changing regulations in the construction industry,” Roy says.

Another component to consider is the advent of realtime data collection.

“Beyond the efficiency of the machine itself comes the connected, smart world—construction style,” explains Schaeffer.

He says realtime data can show how much work is being done and how much fuel is being consumed, idle time, equipment utilization, and more. “Gathering big data gives a big picture of efficiency and productivity, the weak spots and places for time and fuel savings.”

So while construction companies might still see long lead times before the application of the new emission limits on equipment at the jobsite, in the meantime realtime data can provide insights in order to make the jobsite more productive and efficient today.

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