It's the 11th month of 2003, but the 2007 EPA emission standards are already a subject of daily discussion in the industry. How will we ever comply? Will the new standards trigger a truck “pre-buy” that makes '02 look like a blip on the truck sales screen? It's too early to tell about the pre-buy, but the pre-worry is significant and growing. It might be useful to consider other scenarios that could occur between the end of '03 and the start of '07.

Imagine that a majority of fleets make the voluntary decision to eliminate extended engine idling. What's more, thanks to onboard data logging capabilities and GPS, they can document exactly how many hours per day a particular truck's engine ran and where.

This ability to prove dramatic reductions in the net total of engine emissions persuades EPA to adopt a number of compliance options. For instance, an emissions averaging option lets fleets choose from a variety of new engines. They can also trade pollution credits like stationary emissions sources do now. Under this flexible new program, EPA still meets or exceeds its '07 goals and trucking enjoys a new level of productivity and prosperity.

Sound far-fetched? More than 24 idle-reduction options to help enable such a '07 world are currently available and other solutions are just around the corner. One example of a new technology is the MorElectric system from Caterpillar's Electronic & Electrical System division.

“The MorElectric System, which will be available in October 2005, is designed to provide an electric heating, ventilating, air conditioning (HVAC) module to reduce fuel consumption, lower emissions and improve reliability,” explains David Orr, commercial program manager for CAT's MorElectric technology. “A high-efficiency generator replaces the alternator to power the HVAC while on the road.

“The MorElectric technology grew out of a U.S. Dept. of Energy research and development program that we're doing with Kenworth, Engineered Machine Products and Emerson Electric,” he says. “We are electrically driving various engine accessories, such as the water pump, oil pump, brake air compressor and the HVAC system, providing fuel and emission savings over the typical belt- or gear-driven arrangements used today. The prototype truck is built and currently undergoing on-road fuel economy testing.

Caterpillar's MorElectric System offers two Idle Reduction options; a Shore-Power option where the truck is plugged-in like a camper at a campground, or by using an on-board integrated APU (auxiliary power unit). “Once you have this electric air-conditioning and heating capability on-board, then you can cost-effectively take advantage of shorepower when as it becomes through government Truck Stop Electrification initiatives, or use the APU when it's not. From an emissions standpoint, eliminating truck idling would be like taking 15.5-million cars off the road.”

“Like taking 15.5-million cars off the road” is a compelling vision of an emissions reduction achievement that is entirely possible well before the new regulations go into effect in 2007. “I think we are seeing some very major changes in the way the government and the industry view idling,” predicts Orr. “When it comes to reducing emissions, reducing idling is a fairly low-cost means to making big gains quickly. It is low-hanging fruit, and I think people are starting to realize that and appreciate the potential.”

Imagine what '07 would be like if the industry had already met the new emissions requirements when the deadline rolled around, without all the drama of compliance '02-style. It just might be the most exciting industry “nonevent” of the decade.