Everyone in trucking keeps hearing that green is the new gold — that spec'ing environmentally friendly components and equipment not only helps protect the environment, but also meets government regulations and enables fleets to cut operating costs and be good corporate citizens to boot.

That's a tall order to fill, even on the front end, leading many buyers and sellers of used trucks to naturally wonder how green specs and equipment will stand up when valued on the secondary truck market.

Three expert speakers tackled the question of just how gold is green on a panel presented at last month's Truck Blue Book Conference in Nashville. Seeking to educate the audience on what goes into modern green truck-tire design, Don Baldwin, product marketing manager for Michelin North America, detailed the innovations that most directly impact rolling resistance and hence fuel economy.

He said the two key paths to shaving rolling resistance are deploying high-tech rubber compounding, which essentially makes tires “more elastic” so they roll smoother, and working to reduce the mass of tires, which he said helps give wide-base “single” tires their positive impact on fuel economy.

“Thanks to high-tech compounding alone,” said Baldwin, “we've seen a reduction of 25% in rolling resistance for our tires since 1980. And running tires that weigh less can cut rolling resistance by up to 15%.” He pointed out that wide-base single tires are “not the only option” for saving fuel. “All tires today offer a wide variety of rolling resistance properties and ultralow-profile, and wide-base tires are allowing for unprecedented fuel economy.”

Craig Fisher, director of marketing for Thermo King, discussed the outlook for auxiliary power units (APUs) from the perspective of the reefer maker, which also manufactures the TriPac APU.

“When we launched TriPac three years ago, diesel was at $2.40 a gallon and we could estimate a payback of 18 months,” said Fisher. “Now, with fuel between $4 and $5, [large] fleets are buying the vast majority of these APUs instead of owner-operators and small fleets. We're now seeing orders in the 3,000 to 4,000 range.”

Fisher pointed out that currently there are many APU models and makers to pick from, but he believes the new California anti-idling regs will “shake these out.” He explained that to be approved for use under the California Air Resources Board (CARB) rules, diesel-powered APUs will have to be fitted with their own diesel particulate filter (DPF) as are EPA '07-compliant truck engines.

Besides the fact that many trucks must operate in California, Fisher said the CARB regs may serve as a model for tougher anti-idling rules.

Fisher also pointed out that a federal 400-lb. weight exemption for APUs is on the books but has not yet been adopted by all states due to how the federal law was written. Once that exemption is in place, it should help drive APU sales up.

Jon Wyman, president of Tacoma, WA-based Cascadia International, which operates seven truck dealerships, said “trucking is being forced to go green through economic and regulatory issues.” He stated that interest in hybrid drives for local and vocational applications is on the rise.

According to Wyman, changing times are especially affecting how owner-operators and small fleets spec trucks. “We are seeing owner-operators come in wanting to trade for more aerodynamic tractors,” he remarked. “I can tell you that long hoods, high-horse engines [and] 80-plus mph speeds are all going out with these buyers. And '98 engines are too — thanks to West Coast port rules requiring cleaner engines.”

Spec choices that are coming in, said Wyman, include “aerodynamic tractors, chassis fairings and APUs.”