Tier 4: Helping or hurting?

There is little on the minds of equipment manufacturers beyond Tier 4 issues.

There have been a lot of headaches created around the Tier regulations put into place by the EPA and EU to better the air quality, reduce air pollutants, reduce emissions, save the world...or any other way you want to say it.

OEM Off-Highway recently put out a survey to its readers to figure out "the next big topic" after Tier 4, but we had an overwhelming response that there was NOTHING else on their minds for the next few years. (OEM also mistakenly assumed that since Tier 4 Final solutions were being released at ConExpo, that the "worst was behind us" which was apparently FAR from true). Until 2014/15 when these regulations are over and all technologies have to be installed and approved, OEMs will not be able to move on to the next technological issue.

There have been a lot of headaches toward the EPA changing the Tier regulation parameters, making it difficult for OEMs to comply and adhere to the evolving regs. In the article "The cost of compliance" by OEM columnist Dave Jensen he notes that "Engine and equipment manufacturers have long contended that EPA low-balled its estimates on the cost to comply with emissions regulations]," only adding to manufacturer frustrations.

On the positive side, others have simply stated that if it didn't happen now, it was only a matter of time before this parameter was set for engine manufacturers. The haste at which engine manufacturers have had to move to design, develop, test (develop test facilities and capabilities), manufacturer and integrate with OEMs has been overwhelming for most, but has the haste hurt or helped?

I would lean toward hurt, simply because engine manufacturers and OEMs know that the end user is not investing in emissions reductions, they're investing in an engine and machine with improved performance. To focus undivided attention on one issue that doesn't even have definite ROI (how do you put a dollar value on clean air?) must be frustrating, while still having to increase the efficiency and performance of the system overall.

Though, the speed at which these regulations must be met, perhaps this is a "just get it over with" speed, and soon it will all be over. Also, it is allowing (ahem--forcing) other system developers to revamp their technologies to appropriately communicate and react to new engine systems, helping to improve the overall machine, not simply the engine system.

I'd be interested to know other people's opinions on Tier regulations, frustrations and positive opinions are both welcome...though I have a feeling what most responses will be!

Also, be sure to check out the wealth of information, products, and coverage OEM Off-Highway has online in relation to Tier regulations here.