Underground Market Faces Tier 4 Equipment Adjustments In 2011

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Interim Tier 4 emission standards for off-road equipment powered by diesel engines of 175 to less than 750 horsepower will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2011.

From that date through Tier 4’s final implementation in 2014, the equipment marketplace will begin to change for equipment manufacturers and dealers and their customers. Equipment with Tier 4 engines will cost more, they also must use “cleaner” grades of oil and fuel than pre-Tier 4 engines, and Tier 4 engines will require maintenance of emission filters that older engines do not have.

Machines affected that are routinely used in underground construction include trenchers, excavators, horizontal directional drill (HDD) units, vibratory plows, dozers, vacuum excavation equipment and various types of support equipment.

Ramifications of Interim Tier 4
David Campbell, a Ditch Witch project manager, believes it is important that all equipment users are aware of the ramifications Tier 4 compliance will bring.

The January 2011 Tier 4 date, he explains, applies to engine manufacture, not machine sale or delivery. OEMs will be allowed to build machines in 2011 that use engines made in 2010 if previous-year engines were purchased using “normal” inventory practices — stockpiling old engines to delay Tier 4 transition is not allowed. Also, some OEMs may choose to use the EPA “flexibility” rules allowing purchase and use of noncompliant engines in limited numbers.

“Therefore,” says Campbell, “the actual transition date that customers see will be fuzzy. For these reasons, I doubt there will be year-end closeouts, but rather more likely increased demand in 2010 and early 2011 in an effort to avoid price increases.”

It also is important to understand the equipment in service prior to Jan. 1, 2011, are not affected by the Tier 4 transition; equipment now in use may continue to be used on projects after Jan. 1, 2011, can be traded in on new equipment and be bought and sold in the marketplace.

Manufacturers are at work now making sure their current equipment lines will accommodate Tier 4 engines.

“Depending on the type of equipment and model, size probably will be the most significant change,” Campbell says. “Most machines will be bigger because of increased engine size, caused in part by incorporation of diesel particulate filters (DPFs) and cooling packages that are about 30 percent larger than older engine models. New engine features such as cooled exhaust gas recirculation (CEGR) and variable geometry turbochargers will have less impact, but still a significant effect on space requirements.”

When more space is needed for engines, Campbell says the goal is to add height to avoid increasing widths. Finding space for larger engines in smaller machines often is a challenge.

Equipment also will be slightly heavier than comparable models with pre-Tier 4 engines, but increased weight should not be as significant as size.

OEMs preparing
Campbell says by early spring 2010, preparations for equipping models with Tier 4 engines was accounting for approximately 20 percent of Ditch Witch design engineering resources. He adds engine manufacturers have done a good job preparing for the transition, providing OEMs with the engineering data they need, and educating customers. Web sites contain a wealth of information, engine dealers offer assistance and training, and the trade press is publishing articles about the transition.

New maintenance requirements
Operating new Tier 4 powered equipment is about the same as with older models, Campbell observed.

“The operator will need to monitor indicator lights for the emission control components,” says Campbell. “Periodic maintenance is required to clean the DPF at intervals mandated by EPA to be at least every 3,000 or 4,500 hours, depending on engine size. If the engine has cooled exhaust gas recirculation (EGR), it also is sensitive to sulfur content. Likely results of misfueling or using a high-ash oil include a DPF replacement and major engine overhaul.”

To assist customers, Campbell said Ditch Witch is training dealer personnel to understand Tier 4 engine maintenance requirements, failure modes, and price adjustments.

Impact of local regulations
Even though Tier 4 regulations permit older equipment to remain in use, Campbell advises that local emissions requirements could significantly restrict use of older machines on projects within their jurisdictions.

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 requirements may take the form of ordinances or laws such as in New York City or more local bid specification requirements.

The EPA takes air emission samples in every county in the U.S., and tests include measuring ozone and particulate matter. If samples exceed specified levels, the area is determined to be in non-attainment status and must develop a plan to improve. One plan is to restrict older equipment from public projects unless they are retrofitted or repowered.

How widespread such restrictions will become is unknown. A worst case scenario, says Campbell, is that an equipment operator may find he can’t use his equipment on a project.

“Retrofitting older engines to meet higher emission standards is costly,” says Campbell. “With smaller machines, the expense may exceed the value of the equipment.”

The most stringent emissions regulations are in California, he pointed out. “Among the many regulations of the California Air Resources Board, the in-use rule requires fleet owners to annually calculate emissions and compare results to established goals. If the fleet misses the goals, actions such as retrofit, repower or machine replacement must be taken.”

Another California rule is the Portable Equipment Registration Program (PERP) applying to portable, non self-propelled construction equipment. Registration allows equipment to work on projects anywhere in the state without having to obtain permits from local air districts. In order to be registered, a machine must meet current Tier standards for its horsepower class.

As most contractors are aware, the effect of regulations on their work increases every year.

“However,” Campbell says, “equipment users can be assured that OEMs and engine manufacturers are working very hard to meet the new exhaust regulations while minimizing their impact on end user operations.”

Ditch Witch underground construction equipment is manufactured by The Charles Machine Works, Inc. and includes trenchers, vibratory plows, compact excavators and skid-steer loaders, horizontal directional drilling equipment, vacuum excavators and related products.

Ditch Witch, (800) 654-6481, www.ditchwitch.com

Related Articles

    Find articles with similar topics