An annual survey of private fleet managers conducted by PHH FirstFleet has found that the majority – some 63% – are still putting off purchasing trucks equipped with EPA ’07-certified engines. And 44% are only planning to purchase trucks with those engines in either the second or third quarter of this year

“This tells me a lot of people are still very concerned with ’07 engines,” Alex Popov, vp-fleet services for Ft. Lauderdale, FL-based PHH FirstFleet, told FleetOwner. “Despite all we’ve done as an industry to try and educate the fleet community about these engines, they seem to remain a big unknown to fleet managers. They feel the answers are still not there.”

About 79% of the private fleet managers surveyed said they were contending with the 2007 change by stocking up on 2006 engines, which represents just over 50% of the planned orders for 2007. But Popov felt that mindset would change by year’s end.

“I think there will be a mad rush at the end of 2007 to buy trucks-- that’s my two cents worth,” he told FleetOwner. “I also feel the OEMs did a good job putting a lot of information out there about how ’07 engines work, but that a lot of them have written this year off. The question is what does this mean for 2010? Are we going to go through the same thing, again, despite educating fleet managers about SCR and urea?”

Several other key findings related to ’07 engines. Ultra low sulfur diesel (ULSD) fuel and CJ-4 engine oil also raise more questions than answers, said Popov.

When asked about the impact of the introduction of ULSD on the overall cost of fuel, respondents were equally divided, with 34% saying ULSD had little to no impact on fuel costs, while 30% felt it had at least somewhat of an impact.

In terms of what issues fleets are experiencing as a result of using ULSD fuel, 75% felt that it was too early to tell, said Popov, with nearly 13% indicating lower fuel economy. Just over 7% cited fuel availability as an issue, while almost 4% felt their fleets experienced a loss in engine power, the survey found. The general consensus, as seen in 1998 and 2002 emission requirements, is that ULSD increases a fleet’s cost per mile of operation approximately 2%, according to the survey results.

As for using the new API CJ-4 oil [developed for ’07 engines], only two-thirds (67%) of private fleet managers said they’ll use it with 2007 engines, with the remaining third (33%) having no current plans to do so, because they are not aware it is required. When asked whether they will use the new oil on pre-2007 engines, 38% said they would not, while almost 30% said they would. The remaining 32% of respondents said they were not sure if they would use the new oil to protect pre-2007 engines.

Another interesting finding is that more fleet managers – about 24% of those surveyed – are planning to use technology tools, such as telematics, to gain back losses in fuel economy due to emission regulations-- with 39% looking to specifically use route optimization tactics and fuel management to achieve those gains. And 21% plan to use driver-incentive programs to help improve fuel economy.