Friday, September 16, 2011

Clearing the air

The decision may have flown under the trucking radar, but a recent White House move may have delayed hundreds of local emissions rules and ordinances due to our economic downturn.

An ozone standard of 75 parts per billion, announced by the Bush administration in 2008, would not be sought by the EPA, President Obama announced in early September.

“"I have continued to underscore the importance of reducing regulatory burdens and regulatory uncertainty, particularly as our economy continues to recover," Obama said then.

These local air quality standards sound boring, but they’re often the difference between trucks being allowed to idle, or even park.

Local counties, cities and states use a local area’s inability to meet federal air quality standards to justify things like idling restrictions. They have cited the standards when they want to keep truck stops or truck parking out of certain neighborhoods.

President Obama’s action to change direction and avoid tightening local ozone standards was made in the name of “reducing regulatory burdens and regulatory uncertainty, particularly as our economy continues to recover.”

That’s good to hear. Our leaders should consider the economy when deciding the direction of regulations.

Regardless of which party you might identify with, truck owners and taxpayers want this economy to pick up – and truckers would be the first to tell you the damage done by even well-intended emissions regulations.

See the California Air Resources Board for a few examples.

But here’s a question:

If the economy was important when considering ozone restrictions, and the hundreds of billions it would cost private businesses across the board, why isn’t the economy a factor when the White House decided to create the nation’s first fuel mileage standards?

Just a few weeks before the ozone announcement – the White House announced new truck fuel economy standards that made little mention of the ongoing economic recession.

These mileage requirements have undoubtedly already begun a flurry of activity by engine and truck makers. Just like previous EPA requirements, they’ll create “bugs” that won’t be fully known until small-business owners have purchased and driven the trucks for months or years.

These small-business owners, who rarely are able to get loans approved for much larger corporate institutions through avenues like the Small Business Administration instead will be the ones who report issues with new engine technologies. Unfortunately, they’ll often be on the side of the road, and in-between messaging a dispatcher or warehouse.

President Obama was right to consider the economy on ozone. He would have been right to issue truck fuel mileage standards that also eyed its effect on the economy.