Freightliner LLC, General Motors and Isuzu Motors America Inc. are worried that an October 2002 deadline to reduce emissions from heavy-duty engines could force them to stop production because of a lack of certified powerplants.
They say engine makers have fallen behind schedule, and there is not enough time to certify the engines and modify truck designs to accommodate them.
The rules require a cut of almost 50 percent in oxides of nitrogen emissions from heavy-duty diesel engines.
The standard, originally scheduled for the 2004 model year, takes effect in October 2002 under the terms of settlements in 1998 between the EPA and engine makers such as Caterpillar Inc., Cummins Engine Co. and Detroit Diesel Corp.
Freightliner and GM buy most of the engines for their medium- and heavy-duty trucks from those companies.
The settlements ended a 1997 lawsuit in which the EPA alleged the software controlling heavy-duty engines permitted them to exceed emission standards.
The Truck Manufacturers Association, on behalf of Freightliner, GM and Isuzu, wants to become a party to the settlements. If the U.S. District Court in Washington grants the request, the group hopes to renegotiate the settlements to push the deadline to the 2004 model year.
Not enough time
The group contends truckmakers have not received final prototypes of engines that meet the requirements, and not enough time remains to validate the vehicles. The group says engine makers have fallen behind schedule.
'We are only seeking changes in the consent decrees that would allow our members sufficient time to adapt the new technology to their trucks, then test and verify the performance and reliability,' said William Leasure Jr., the trade group's executive director.
Once the truckmakers receive prototypes, they still have to modify the trucks. One likely modification will involve changing the cooling system, because the engines are expected to run at higher temperatures.
The trade group says truckmakers need at least two years to modify and validate their vehicles. Only 18 months remain until the October 2002 deadline.
The engine makers in the original settlement - Volvo, Renault, Mack and International Truck and Engine Corp. - have not been involved in the trade group's effort.
Warning of shutdowns
If the court does not grant an extension there could be assembly line shutdowns, Freightliner and GM warn in the group's court filing.
Mack Trucks Inc. of Allentown, Pa., says it has an advantage because it makes both trucks and engines. The company is developing a cleaner engine and expects it to be in production by this summer.
Spokesman John Mies said that if other manufacturers are given relief, Mack would hope to benefit, too.