What New Truck Chassis Regulations Will Mean to You
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What New Truck Chassis Regulations Will Mean to You

Discover the pros and cons of the new EPA standards that will eventually impact your business.

By Jennifer LeClaire

What if your boom truck could make diesel exhaust cleaner than the air coming into the engine? New chassis emissions regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are forcing engine manufacturers to meet that standard.

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  • The EPA 2010 emission regulations mandate a drastic reduction in nitrogen oxide and non-methane hydrocarbons (NHMC) emission levels. Compliant trucks will feature new after-treatment and in-cylinder technologies, as well as new boosting and thermal management systems. Chassis that incorporate these new technologies are already on the market. Of course, they come at a price. The new chassis can add $5,000 to $7,000 to the cost of a truck.

    "The additional cost is going to be a difficult pill for some sign builders to swallow," says Jim Glazer, president of Elliott Equipment, a boom truck manufacturer in Omaha, Neb. "But at the end of the day, these regulations are going to apply to everybody. The sign companies that become early adopters of these regulations will get to claim that they are taking a greener approach to doing business."

    Purchasing a New Truck?
    Indeed, sign builders will eventually be forced to purchase new trucks to comply with the EPA standards. According to Bryan Wilkerson, president of Wilkie Manufacturing, a manufacturer of cranes and ladders headquartered in Oklahoma City, Okla., sign builders should consider several factors when deciding to purchase a truck that complies to the newest emission standards.

    "There is the initial cost increase in the cab and chassis but you would also experience reduced fuel mileage," Wilkerson says. "Then there's the cost of additional fuel supplements, though not all manufactures use them, the availability of the fuel supplements, additional maintenance, cost of additional parts in the future, as well the issue of who is authorized to service the emission side of the engine in your area."

    If you purchase a new truck right now, you are buying a 2011 model that will include the new fuel system and new exhaust system that meets EPA requirements. "The cost of steel has gone down some, but not enough to overcome the increase the government has imposed on the new chassis," says Johnny Stamm, president of Stamm Manufacturing, a designer and manufacturer of lifts, buckets, cranes, signalers and roofing trucks in Fort Pierce, Fla. "So it's not even a trade-off in some instances. You'll still pay more for a new truck."

    The Sales Impact of Cleaner Emissions
    The quest for cleaner emissions could have clear repercussions on boom truck and crane truck sales and operation. Beyond the initial price of the automobiles, the main effect of the change in new truck emissions is the automatic idle shut down.

    "Trucks with the new chassis will also cost more to maintain. The engine has to stay running and the new trucks have a five-minute idle downtime,” Wilkerson says. “After five minutes the truck shuts off. So you would have to have a remote start and stop if you’re continually running the truck to run the equipment that's on it."

    The new emission standards won't impact the way the booms and cranes operate, but the regulations do add complexity from a crane installation standpoint. In the past, Glazer explains, manufacturers could re-route an exhaust. "With the new chassis, once the exhaust is installed you can't adjust it so it's vital that the truck is speced correctly," he says. "You have to work with the crane supplier and the truck supplier to make sure that happens."

    On a positive note, you’ll pay more for the new trucks, but your customers might hire you instead of a competitor with an older truck. Stamm points to an example of a sign maker installing or repairing a sign in front of a grocery store. You leave your truck idling while you do your work, and the fumes in the exhaust system bother the customers—and the store manager.

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    "With the new trucks that meet the chassis standards, you get a cleaner fuel burn so the fumes won't be so much of an issue with the smell of the fuels bothering people coming into the store—and actually seeping into the store," Stamm says. "The alternative is using smaller trucks that run off batteries. That doesn't put out fumes and it's quieter."

    Operations-wise, there is also a more intensive maintenance program due to the additional parts and equipment, as well as additional planning for out of area work to make sure you can access the diesel fuel additive that's required for some of the new chassis. Wilkerson says in his area, there was one fuel station in Oklahoma City selling the supplement—but it is no longer available. Without this supplement, you can't operate the truck.

    "Fuel stations were supposed to start carrying the additive in January, but few have it. If you go to a truck stop and ask, most of the time the person behind the counter won't know what you are talking about,” Wilkerson says. “They've never even heard of it.”

    Meeting OSHA Requirements
    In addition to emissions standards, sign makers who operate crane and boom trucks are also faced with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements. As Wilkerson sees it, the best way to safely operate any equipment is to use common sense.

    "Start with the best piece of safety equipment that we all have—the brain—and think about what you are doing and will be doing before the work ever starts," Wilkerson says. "Wear your safety equipment, hard hats, eye protection and any time that you are elevated over six feet, OSHA requires the use of a safety harness."

    Glazer notes the importance of making sure the operator fully understands all crane manufacturer instructions—both from an operations and maintenance perspective. As he sees it, most accidents could be prevented if basic safety rules are followed and maintenance is conducted at scheduled intervals.

    "People are trying to save money wherever they can, but we don't recommend saving money by deferring maintenance on equipment," Glazer says. "It will cost you more in the end, either by having a bigger break down or having a potential catastrophe on the road."

    OSHA hasn't changed its safety requirements for sign makers in the bucket for many years. But there is one noteworthy trend. OSHA is outlawing ladders on top of a boom truck. Stamm recalls how, years ago, some trucks had a ladder and the worker would climb the ladder to get into the bucket to work on signs.

    OSHA has made it clear that the ladder is no longer an acceptable way to reach the bucket, but mandates hydraulics. OSHA is also trying to eliminate cable operations within the boom for extension and contraction, again recommending hydraulics.

    "Think through what you are doing, what the operation is, how close you are to electric lines, if there is a possibility for a vehicle to enter the work area and strike your boom truck. And wear a safety harness," Wilkerson says. "If people work a safety belt and did the recommended maintenance, 99 percent of all accidents would go away."

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