Nobody should smell trouble

Manufacturers working diligently to meet tougher emission standards

Article May 17, 2002
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I’m going to do it. I’m going to quote Ozzy
Osbourne, the pioneering heavy metal rocker known more for his bloody, biting
antics onstage than his educated tongue. Amazingly, Americans are embracing him
like Bill Cosby thanks to MTV’s hit show “The Osbournes,”
which documents the days of the Ozzy clan.

But as I put on the miles at ConExpo-Con/Agg 2002 and took
in the diesel emission fumes, one Ozzy saying came to mind: “Ah, the
sweet smell of success.”

Ignition keys were turning constantly over at the Gold Lot,
where major manufacturers like Caterpillar, New Holland and Bobcat stuck their
chests out and showed the goods in an attempt to attract customers. Every
exhibitor I had a chance to wave down echoed familiar phrases like:
“Better than expected,” “Pleasantly surprised” and
“Couldn’t be happier.” Over 111,000 players in the
construction industry legged out over 1.94 million net sq ft at ConExpo-Con/Agg
2002.

But when all the fans have cleared out, even Ozzy Osbourne
is relegated to chores like taking out the garbage and feeding the dogs.

Manufacturers have been engaged in a major job in an attempt
to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Tier 3
emission standards for off-highway diesel engines. In 1994, the EPA issued its
first set of emission standards—Tier 1—for all off-highway diesel
engines greater than 50 hp. Tier 1 standards were phased in for different
engine sizes between 1996 and 2000, reducing NOx emissions from these sources
by 30%. Tier 2 rules are currently working their way into the system, but the
industry is now brain sweating over tougher Tier 3 (2006) and Tier 4 standards
down the line.

The EPA envisions a Tier 3 program more closely aligned with
future highway standards, achieving comparable control of particulate matter
(PM) for off-highway diesel engines.

PM might as well be called “sensitive matter” by
the environmentalists. Anti-road groups have used the small particle problem to
clog the progression of major projects over the years.

There is a reason for concern. Millions of people live in
areas in violation of PM10 (particulate matter with a diameter less than 10
microns) national ambient air quality standards.

Manufacturers need to breathe just like everyone else and agree
when there’s talk of purifying the atmosphere. But times are
tight—there are tight time frames and tight budgets. A few of the major
players simply don’t know if they’ll be able to meet EPA deadlines,
and most have bulldozed a ton of money into research and development.

Emissions are affected by fuel quality, engine design,
engine adjustment and engine operation. Now, to meet Tier 2 regulations there
needs to be room for a turbo-charger, an electronic controller and larger
aftercoolers, radiators, fuel tanks, air cleaners and fuel coolers. Try making
a precise cut looking over and around a hood the size of a large closet.
I’ve enjoyed a roller coaster standing up, but never imagined doing the
same with a bulky piece of equipment. That would be impractical, which is why
designers have been conjuring up new systems able to accommodate the now
popular low-profile hood and boom, swing and chassis clearance.

Electronics continue to ride us into a tiny universe, where
cell phones the size of an earpiece will one day rule the world.

Engine sophistication, however, is swelling. Performing
maintenance on a motor grader might require a computer science degree some day.
If continuous training isn’t already a mainstay, perhaps this technology
move will force the issue.

Then there’s the dilemma of harmonization. North
America, Japan and Europe are the only continents approaching Tier 4
regulations, while other regions may still be in the Tier 1 or 2 stage. The
“Big Three” always lead, and the rest are slow to follow. But the
last time I checked we all shared the same bubble . . . there should be no
tolerance for those holding pins and needles. World acknowledgment of cleaner
air is the only way to go.

I’m sure even the reckless Ozzy Osbourne would agree.

About the author: 
2001 Roger F. Boger Award—Editorials Bill Wilson, Editor [email protected]
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