Contractors Facing Complicated, Varied Emissions Compliance

Contractors and other operators of off road, diesel powered equipment are encountering a growing number of public construction projects that require retrofits of diesel engines powering older equipment.

These retrofits are not directly related to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Tier 4 rules currently being phased in by interim stages. However, the retrofits are being adopted by local agencies following EPA air quality monitoring that designate an area in “non attainment” status and require a plan to bring the area into compliance with EPA standards.

Two large cities that have implemented retrofit requirements for older off highway equipment are New York City and Philadelphia, but the move toward stricter emission rules are not limited to large metropolitan areas.

Joe Suchecki, director of public affairs at the Engine Manufacturers Association (EMA), said a number of cities, states and government agencies are requiring retrofits for non road diesel equipment used on public projects.

“These requirements,” he added, “can take the form of ordinances or laws such as in New York City or more local bid specification requirements. On the far end of the spectrum is the state of California where the Air Resources Board has passed a regulation requiring retrofits of essentially all diesel vehicles and equipment in the state.”

Local compliance
Such local requirements are reported to be keeping many equipment and engine dealers and distributors busy helping customers address the requirements and adapt their equipment.

Retrofits required include mobile equipment such as loader backhoes and excavators and widely used stationary equipment such as pumps and air compressors.

For example, Joe Abbott, national sales manager of Godwin Pumps, says enforcement of emission regulations in New York City and Philadelphia are generating many customer calls for assistance. The Philadelphia specification mandating retrofits was included in city contracts issued after June 1, 2009, with a six month grace period that expired Dec. 1, 2009.

Abbott said his company’s pumps with diesel engines of 50 horsepower and higher are affected.

“We are devoting an incredible amount of engineering time researching solutions and evaluating the most economical methods of making retrofits to respond to the needs of owners of our pumps,” said Abbott. “Also, it is important to take into consideration the costs of ongoing maintenance required by retrofit accessories such s diesel particulate filters.”

Abbott said he is concerned that the local requirements will cause a rush to make modifications to comply that could be difficult to accommodate and could cause financial hardships to many manufacturers.

Joe Mastanduno, John Deere engine/drive train product marketing manager, said the issues faced by Godwin pumps, other manufacturers and equipment owners are nationwide and are not going to go away.

“Equipment owners and operators are coming to our dealers with questions and to seek solutions,” said Mastanduno.

He explained that the EPA samples air emissions in every county in the U.S., including measuring ozone and particulate matter, and if samples exceed specified levels, areas are determined to be in non attainment status and must develop a plan to improve. Many areas along the east coast are in non attainment.

“Usually,” he continued, “it’s the states that put regulations in place, and they often vary from state to state, making understanding rules difficult. Often large contractors with large equipment fleets can move equipment around in order to comply with regulations, but smaller contractors do not have that advantage. While there are programs to assist small contractors with retrofit costs, inadequate funding greatly limits the number of companies that can receive assistance, and some who cannot comply may be forced out of business.”

Tougher regs
Stricter attainment regulations are expected to make compliance even more difficult.

“Current retrofits and repowers primarily assist in lowering levels of ozone and particulate matter (PM),” Mastanduno said. “But in the next five months, the EPA is expected to lower acceptable levels of ozone and PM which will affect compliance by older diesel engines.”

Mastanduno said John Deere is taking a proactive approach to emission compliance issues for new engines and retrofitting older engine models.

“We want equipment buyers and users to know that Deere has the right technology right now, and Deere is your advisor on emission issues,” he said.

EMA’s Suchecki advises that as states develop plans to meet increasingly stringent ambient air quality standards for particulate matter and ozone, increasing attention will be paid to emissions from existing non road equipment.

“In many cases,” he said, “these will be voluntary efforts funded through federal and state programs such as the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act where governments offer financial incentives for owners to retrofit. In other cases, governments will decide to use the bid specification route to require contractors bidding on projects to use retrofitted equipment. We would expect that such programs will continue to grow over the next several years.”

Retrofits For Rental Equipment
Many contractors, utility providers, and government utilities depend heavily on rented equipment for construction and maintenance projects.

To make sure their customers have access to equipment that meets emission standards, rental centers are attentive to EPA and state and local emission rules.

Bruce Lafky, United Rentals vice president for service and maintenance, said changes in emission standards are very much on the radar of United Rentals, the world’s largest renter of construction equipment.

“Given the thousands of diesel units in our fleet,” said Lafky, “we have several compliance strategies in place, primarily replacement or transfer depending on age.

“The breadth of our branch footprint gives us the opportunity to move diesel equipment around to geographies where it complies with regulations. We may consider retrofit, but for a rental company that cost generally has a poor return on investment unless the company plans to hold onto the equipment for a considerable period.

Lafky said many states and municipalities are still feeling their way forward with regulations.

“For example,” he explained, “the New York City requirement is that off road diesel equipment deploy the best technology available’ for emissions control. This can mean the latest model on the market, but sometimes it requires the installation of an after market scrubber or diesel particulate filter, which has downstream cost implications for the end renter. Fortunately, United Rentals has a relatively new fleet within the applications most affected by emission standards.”

John Deere, (309) 748-0114,
Godwin Pumps, (856) 467-3636,

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