SmartWay plans fall update to tractor standards, could include day cabs for first time

SmartWay is considering adding day cabs to its list of technologies that can achieve the SmartWay designation.

Changes could be coming soon to the SmartWay Transport Partnership program, and they may include a number of new designations, including recognition of day cabs in the program for the first time.

Sam Waltzer, environmental engineer with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s SmartWay program’s Technology Assessment Center, told FreightWaves on Monday the agency is targeting this fall for updates to the SmartWay Tractor designation and those updates could include day cabs.

“We’ve had a lot of feedback from fleets and stakeholders that have asked us to include day cabs,” he said, following a presentation he put on about SmartWay for attendees at the Technology & Maintenance Council’s Annual Meeting & Transportation Technology Exhibition. Waltzer emphasized that the updated Tractor designation may not include day cabs, but it remains a real possibility.

During the meeting, Waltzer also said that SmartWay has considered mid-roof and low-roof tractors for designation as well, but “it’s very challenging” due to the variety of duty cycles and trailer configurations those vehicles haul.

“I think there is probably some value, but I think we’d have to be careful how we do it,” he explained, “because people could use [the tractor] to pull all sorts of trailers.”

Waltzer also said there was concern over “generalizing” the SmartWay designation by applying it to a mid-roof tractor that is operating in non-fuel-efficient applications.

SmartWay is a voluntary program that measures and benchmarks technologies as to their fuel efficiency potential. Fleets buying equipment and technology listed on the SmartWay list are sometimes given preference for freight by shippers. It has become a de facto standard in the industry that if you are running SmartWay equipment, then you are a fuel-efficient and environmentally conscious fleet.

Waltzer was addressing just the SmartWay Tractor designation in his presentation, and he laid out some of the current standards for the program, and some areas that the agency is considering for future updates of the program.

“In a way, you have to go deeper to [encourage] technology adoption, but at the same time you have to make it [practical],” he said.

One of the changes Waltzer said is being considered is creating tiers of designations. For tractors, that would mean that top-of-line tractors with the full complement of aerodynamic add-ons might qualify for an “Elite” level, while vehicles not-so-equipped might just receive the SmartWay designation.

To illustrate, Waltzer showed a slide of the current “regulatory aerodynamic bins” used for tractor designation. There are five bins that tractors fall into; bin 1 is a traditional truck with little to no aerodynamic features. Each bin adds additional aero features up to bin 5. “A lot of the top-of-the-line trucks you see on the road today are bin 4 or 5 trucks,” he noted.

Those bins are just one tool that SmartWay uses to assess tractors for consideration. Another is the GEM compliance model, which EPA is using for Greenhouse Gas Emissions Phase 2. GEM calculates emissions based on a grams per CO2 per ton mile basis.

If SmartWay puts more weight into the GEM model in a tractor update, that would provide more benefit to additional technologies such as speed limiters, weight reduction, neutral idle and intelligent controls among others. Those are all currently listed as technologies available in the GEM program.

With that said, Waltzer noted that SmartWay is not in the business of telling people how to spec their trucks, but rather is looking to provide information. “We can’t do everything and we’re not going to make people put stuff on their trucks,” he said, before launching into a section on the key questions SmartWay is considering going forward.

At the top of that list is the inclusion of day cabs and mid-roof/low-roof tractors. Currently, only Class 8, long-haul sleepers are included in the program “because they burn the most fuel.” That may be changing, though.

“We’ve wanted to add [day cabs] for a while, but there is now momentum,” Waltzer said. “One of our concerns is we don’t want to add a bunch of weight to be put on the truck by adding technology such as hotel idling [solutions] that won’t be used.

“But, I would be shocked if we don’t add day cabs,” he added.

Alternative-powered vehicles as well as vocational vehicles are also part of the discussion. Currently, for an OEM to get a vehicle SmartWay certified, it must do a lot of testing to validate the fuel efficiency of that vehicle. Waltzer said that with all the testing and data now being conducted – especially as it pertains to Phase 2 regulations – SmartWay is looking to see whether an updated program could incorporate that testing without putting a large burden on OEMs for additional testing.

The purpose of any update, Waltzer said, was to better help fleets identify the most fuel-efficient tractors. “Folks don’t want to have a conversation about all the regulatory elements,” he said. “We want a shorthand way to do that.”

He concluded by asking fleets to reach out to SmartWay to provide their thoughts on updates and potential technologies that should be considered as the agency works through this process.

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Brian Straight

Brian Straight covers general transportation news and leads the editorial team as Managing Editor. A journalism graduate of the University of Rhode Island, he has covered everything from a presidential election, to professional sports and Little League baseball, and for more than 10 years has covered trucking and logistics. Before joining FreightWaves, he was previously responsible for the editorial quality and production of Fleet Owner magazine and fleetowner.com. Brian lives in Connecticut with his wife and two kids and spends his time coaching his son’s baseball team, golfing with his daughter, and pursuing his never-ending quest to become a professional bowler.