Reducing emissions is a top priority among federal and state lawmakers, and the U.S. Department of Transportation has announced a new deadline — Feb. 1 — for state departments of transportation to establish transportation-related emission-reduction goals.

The federal government has also announced more than $27 billion in federal funding to help states reach their targets, including $5 billion to build out an electric vehicle charging network, $2.5 billion to deploy electric vehicle charging and hydrogen, propane and natural gas fueling infrastructure, and $400 million to reduce truck idling and emissions at ports.

The new requirements and funding are among several regulatory initiatives designed to improve sustainability, which is also taking on greater importance as customer, consumer and investor interest in companies’ environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals increases.

Fleets can reduce emissions in several ways, including turning to late-model equipment, deploying electric vehicles and using renewable diesel fuel.

Late-Model Equipment: Late-model equipment with significant fuel economy improvements, reducing emissions. The North American Council for Freight Efficiency’s 2022 Annual Fleet Fuel Study found that fuel efficiency for all heavy-duty Class 8 combination vehicles went from 5.97 to 6.24 mpg during the last three years.

Vehicle Selection: Spec’ing the right vehicle for the application improves efficiency and fuel economy while also reducing operating costs and the risk of mechanical failures. Different fleets have different needs, and a cross-country vehicle, for example, is spec’ed very differently than a tractor used in regional applications.

Aerodynamic Devices: Installing EPA-verified aerodynamic devices on tractors and trailers can save fuel by minimizing aerodynamic drag and maintaining smoother airflow. Technologies include side skirts (a pair of panels affixed to the lower side edges of a trailer) and trailer tails, both of which reduce drag.

Auxiliary Power Units: Auxiliary power units (APUs) reduce the need for idling, allowing fleets to reduce fuel costs, increase engine life and improve driver comfort. Fleets can choose either an electric APU that runs on batteries or a diesel-powered APU that runs on a small diesel engine that burns a small amount of fuel per hour. APUs could range from $8,500 to $12,500, but that cost is recouped in fuel savings over about two and a half years.

Preventive Maintenance: Preventive maintenance helps keep the tractor operating at peak performance, which has a direct impact on fuel economy. The North American Council for Freight Efficiency reported that fleets can achieve fuel savings between 5% and 10% through preventive maintenance.

Electric Vehicle Solutions: Penske has built and operates North America’s first heavy-duty EV charging network, and there are multiple paths to EV adoption. These include Class 8 trucks and light- and medium-duty equipment. Penske Truck Leasing offerings include the Freightliner eCascadia (class 8), Freightliner eM2 (class 6 and 7), Volvo VNR electric tractor (class 8), International® eMV™ (class 6 and 7), Ford E-Transit (Class 2), Orange EV e-Triever electric terminal truck (class 8 yard tractor), Freightliner Custom Chassis MT50e walk-in (class 5 and 6), and XOS walk-in (class 6).

Renewable Diesel Fuel: Renewable diesel fuel is a cleaner option that performs identically to ultra low sulfur diesel (ULSD) but has a well-to-wheel differential of 60% to 90%+ in greenhouse gas. Renewable diesel reduces particulate matter by more than 40%, carbon monoxide by more than 25%, total hydrocarbons by more than 20%, NOx by 10%, and lifecycle GHG emissions by up to 90%. Penske offers renewable diesel fuel at several locations on the West Coast.

Fleets are increasingly expected to be able to quantify their emission reduction efforts. Penske Truck Leasing has solutions, including an emissions calculator, to help fleets calculate savings and track results. Associates will also work with fleets to find the ideal equipment for their needs and test new technologies.

New regulations affecting fleet operations are increasing, and carriers must comply with existing requirements while keeping up with the latest changes. The federal government and some states are creating stricter emissions requirements. California often takes the lead at the state level, and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) has adopted several measures that are being introduced or implemented in other states.

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Under the Department of Transportation's Compliance Safety Accountability (CSA) program, the Safety Measurement System quantifies the on-road safety performance of carriers and drivers to identify candidates for interventions. The system relies heavily on data from roadside inspections, so every vehicle and driver violation counts. Fortunately, proper maintenance and driver training can prevent nearly all of the most frequent violations private fleets receive.

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Thorough pre- and post-trip inspections help drivers and carriers meet federal safety standards and improve safety — and the results of roadside inspections can hurt or help carriers' safety scores depending on what law enforcement finds.

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Federal law has required professional truck drivers to wear seat belts since 1970, and a record 86% of professional drivers use safety belts, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reported. According to FMCSA, safety belt use remains one of the cheapest, easiest and most important means to protect commercial motor vehicle drivers.

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New standards on lease accounting take effect for private companies and non-profit entities with fiscal years beginning in 2022, requiring them to recognize operating lease assets and liabilities on the balance sheet.

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Penske's Fleet Services and Operating Tax groups take the complexity out of the regulatory requirements commercial fleets encounter, enabling motor carriers to focus on their core business while remaining compliant with their federal, state, provincial and local tax obligations. Plus, Penske is always working behind the scenes to stay abreast of tax and vehicle legalization requirements in the U.S. and Canada so customers can remain in compliance even as the regulatory landscape changes.

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Live diagnostic reporting systems have a number of benefits for carriers, including minimizing delays associated with breakdowns and reducing the risk of Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) violations, but unless the systems are managed properly, carriers may be overwhelmed with fault codes that leave them with more questions than answers.

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The compliance deadline for new lease accounting standards took effect in January for calendar-end public companies. That means public companies, whether they report under International Financial Reporting Standards or current Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), are now required to recognize operating lease assets and liabilities on the balance sheet. Private companies have until 2020 to comply.

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Fleets have data coming at them from multiple sources, including electronic logging devices and the engine.

When managed properly, information can be used to improve operations and increase efficiency. Otherwise, the vast amount of data can be overwhelming to private fleets.

“You have to be wary of paralysis by analysis,” said Mike Hasinec, vice president of maintenance support at Penske Truck Leasing.

Fortunately, Penske Truck Leasing can help private fleets monitor and organize data to make it accessible and usable.

ELD Data

Electronic logging devices became mandatory in 2017, and data obtained from the devices can help private fleets become more efficient and improve safety. Fleets could use data to examine the productivity of individual drivers and make decisions regarding their loads.

In addition, ELDs could make it easier to track miles traveled in each state. ELDs could also change conversations with shippers by making it easier to identify which shippers are detaining drivers and drive discussions regarding loading and unloading.

Engine Communications

Live diagnostic reporting systems have a number of benefits for carriers, including minimizing delays associated with breakdowns and reducing the risk of CSA violations. But unless the systems are managed properly, carriers may be overwhelmed with fault codes that leave them with more questions than answers.

“There are so many fault codes. You need to work with an OEM to determine which codes are important,” Hasinec said.

Penske Truck Leasing has taken more than 1,000 fault codes and categorized them into red, yellow and green to help technicians, carriers and drivers understand which codes require immediate attention.

For private fleets, the important element is to be able to decipher what the fault codes mean. “If you have identified what is important, you can manage a phone call from the driver to let them know not to worry about it, write the code up that night or pull over at the first safe opportunity,” Hasinec said, adding that Penske has identified 12 critical codes.

Penske can also analyze fault codes and adjust preventive maintenance schedules if certain items are failing prematurely. This minimizes the risk of an over-the-road failure and increases a vehicle’s uptime.

Financial Information

Full-service leases through Penske Truck Leasing can help consolidate information, including billing and financial data, so it can be pulled up with the click of a mouse. Having the information in a central location makes it easier for chief financial officers to access the data when they need it.

Regulatory Compliance

Penske Truck Leasing compiles information related to regulatory compliance of Class 8 trucks and carefully tracks information related to maintenance. Proper maintenance not only minimizes the risk of roadside inspection violations but also ensures information on maintenance is readily available in the event of a Department of Transportation (DOT) audit. Penske can also assist with licensing, further reducing the regulatory burden on private fleets and improving record keeping as it applies to critical data.