It has been 12 years since Tier 1 engines were first incorporated into construction equipment. The final Tier 4 emission standards are phasing in now, continuing through 2015. As the 2011 phase-in period for the largest horsepower ratings (175 to 750 hp) begins, I have repeatedly heard the same concerns from product managers and engineers representing crane manufacturers. They say compliance with engine requirements has hindered product development, and once these cranes hit the streets, they wonder about the resale market for them outside the United States and Canada.
These and other concerns were recently outlined in an FAQ report developed by five off-road equipment industry associations, including the Associated Equipment Distributors and Association of Equipment Manufacturers. “Many dealers and customers have questions about how the new Tier 4 regulations will affect them,” said Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the Diesel Technology Forum (DTF). The report includes emissions tables and technical graphics. Some of the questions relate to fuel types and values of trade-ins. The report can be downloaded from www.aednet.org, www.aem.org, or from other DTF collaborators.
In September, at the Specialized Carriers & Rigging Association’s Crane & Rigging Workshop, a panel of engineers representing Terex, Manitowoc, Liebherr, and Kobelco addressed this issue. The general consensus was that these requirements have come at a bad economic time when engineering resources are already limited.
But perhaps bigger concerns for users are cost, maintenance, reliability, and resale value. According to www.dieselnet.com, Tier 4 standards require emissions of PM and NOx be further reduced from Tier 3 levels by about 90 percent. Such reductions can be achieved through the use of control technologies—including advanced exhaust gas aftertreatment—similar to those required by 2007-2010 standards for highway engines. The EPA has mandated a reduction in sulfur content in fuel to be used with these sulfur-sensitive controls. Ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD) fuel can only have 15 ppm or less of sulfur content. Diesel retailers have had until Dec. 1, 2010 to convert to ULSD.
Engine technologies that achieve these requirements are complex and in turn may affect reliability, an opinion voiced by more than one of the engineers on the Crane & Rigging Workshop panel. “I think reliability of the machine is reduced because the complexity is rising,” said Hans-Dieter Willim, general manager of design for Liebherr Ehingen. Maintenance costs also go up. According to various resources, including the EPA and the Engine Manufacturers Association, ULSD fuel costs more to refine and distribute. Using ULSD in older vehicles may affect fuel system components or loosen deposits in fuel tanks. And, aftertreatment devices can be harmed in Tier 4 engines if low sulfur diesel (not ULSD) is used over long periods of time.
Multiple internet resources assure the availability of ULSD fuel throughout the United States after Dec. 1. However, crane experts openly question that. Outside the United States and Canada, the situation is even worse.
Looking down the road to when these cranes are ready for resale, one product marketing manager warned, “If ULSD is not readily available worldwide, it is going to affect the used equipment market.” My research indicates 15 ppm ULSD is available now in the European Union, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Australia, and New Zealand. Several countries in parts of South America and Asia are offering fuel with 50 ppm sulfur content—which is not quite there yet—and availability throughout the rest of the world is questionable or non-existent.
I understand that the goal is to reduce emissions and therefore save lives. One report predicts: “By 2030, 12,000 premature deaths would be prevented annually due to the implementation of the proposed standards.” But I have to ask myself, at what cost to commerce, the economy, and jobs?