Suppliers to the commercial-truck and bus industry are waiting to see how new fuel and emissions standards in the U.S. will affect them.
New rules announced Aug. 9 by the Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency should lead to lighter-weight parts and more parts that improve aerodynamics, said Mark Miller, president of plastics injection molder CK Technologies LLC.
The thing he does not know is how specific customers will approach those standards.
“As a thermoplastic solution provider, lighter weight is a good thing, and as an aerodynamic performance supplier, it's a good thing,” Miller said in an Aug. 11 telephone interview. “Here's the difficulty: There are a whole spectrum of issues and ways that they could approach this.”
An emphasis on engines or trailers, for instance, would not necessarily be the same boon for CKT — part of Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Cascade Engineering Inc. — as would decisions to replace metal parts with plastics, he said.
The commercial-truck industry has had generally positive response to the standards. The rules cover everything from delivery vans and school buses to large semi-trucks, with improvement targets of 10-15 percent.
The federal government estimates improvements on fuel efficiency for those vehicles could lead to $50 billion in fuel cost savings for fleet operators.
Commercial-truck users were already looking for fuel-saving programs prior to the announcement, he said. A mile or even a half-mile more per gallon makes a big difference in operating costs for them, while individual car drivers might not notice the difference.
Emphasis on fuel performance in the industry, even before the new standards were announced, had prompted increased sales for CKT, which is building a $20 million plant for new business in Brownsville, Texas.