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Mack says harder rules no problem

June 14, 2000|By LAURA ERNDE

Tougher emissions standards proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency last month are not expected to affect Mack Trucks Inc.'s engine manufacturing plant in Hagerstown, the company's top engineer said Wednesday.

The new technology is being tested at the Hagerstown plant, said Chuck Salter, Mack's director of engine engineering.

"We have a pretty good start," he said.

But when it is implemented, in 2007 at the earliest, it likely will be added to engines during the assembly stage rather than integrated into the engines made in Hagerstown, he said.

For the first time, new big trucks would be required to have the kind of pollution control equipment long mandated for automobiles. Mack's diesel truck engines would be fitted with devices, not unlike catalytic converters on cars, that remove nitrogen oxide and soot.

The goal is to cut truck pollution by 95 percent.

While Mack supports the idea of improving air quality, the company takes exception with some of the specific proposals, Salter said.

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For example, restrictions on nitrogen oxide emissions are believed to be stricter than technologically possible, he said.

Mack also believes the new technology will be more costly than the $1,600 per truck the EPA is estimating, he said.

Salter said it will add between $3,500 and $4,000 to the cost of a typical $60,000 truck. The expense eventually will drive up consumer prices, he said.

Mack strongly supports a companion proposal to eliminate most of the sulfur in diesel gas. In fact, even stricter limits on sulfur are needed for the catalyst technology to work properly, he said.

There is a chance Mack could see an increase in orders by customers trying to avoid the higher costs, the year before the technology becomes mandatory, he said. That has never happened in the industry, however, he said.

Mack has an advantage in the industry because it builds both the truck engines and vehicles, while most heavy-duty trucking companies buy their engines elsewhere, company spokesman John Mies said.

"Our competitors have to wait and see how their suppliers will address it," he said.

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