Back in the Eighties, when diesel was barely over $1/gallon, my drivers kept track of their fuel economy in a bound ledger book, at every fill-up, calculated out to two decimal places (e.g. 5.12 MPG). Not only did they keep this permanent on-board record and submit a weekly fuel report to the office, but they also were quite competitive with their co-workers about who got the best fuel economy. It was a point of pride for them, a measure of how well they were doing their job.
I can’t say that what my drivers did was all that unique at the time, with the possible exception of carrying out the calculations to two decimal places. Solar-powered calculators had just hit the sub-$5 price range and, with the large amount of fuel we were using, anything we could do to encourage drivers to squeeze out an extra 0.01 MPG was well worth the small investment of a calculator.
Going back even further, I’m sure that about the time they purchased their second or third tank of fuel, Rudolf Diesel and Clessie Cummins were both tracking the fuel economy of their newest engines.
Government invites itself to the fuel economy table
If drivers and engine builders are predisposed to track their truck’s fuel economy, it would be ludicrous to suggest that the truck owner, the guy paying the fuel bill, isn’t watching the fuel consumption even closer. In fact, he’s likely counting out to three or four decimal places when viewed across an entire fleet over a month or a year. Considering the volume of fuel used by a 100-truck long-haul fleet, it is equally ludicrous to suggest that the fleet owner isn’t already doing everything practical to gain an extra 0.005 MPG, or even 0.0005 MPG.
Yet last year, some professional politicians and bureaucrats decided that they knew more than all of the guys who have been paying fuel bills for decades. These guys, who have never had to turn a profit on anything in their life, cooked up a heavy-truck fuel economy regulation scheme set to take effect in 2014.
Prior to the announcement of the regulations, there was no lack of progress on fuel economy improvements. Not at the end-user level. Not at the truck manufacturer level. Not at the engine builder level. Not anywhere. There was no push from truck buyers (who write the checks for fuel) to have outsiders speed up development by the truck and engine builders. There certainly was no push from the truck and engine builders to have outsiders speed up adoption of fuel-saving technologies by truck users.
Technology moves rapidly enough at its own pace. Meanwhile, the bureaucrats’ track record at pushing regulation ahead of technology has been universally disastrous. Implementation of the 2004 and 2007 emission regulation schemes certainly make that point, as did the first run at ABS braking in the mid-Seventies.
What’s the point?
The market has been working just fine, always at or near the bleeding edge of technology, without any outside interference.
At the same time the entire trucking industry was making admirable progress through an onerous emission reduction schedule, reaching today’s near-zero emission levels, steady progress was still being made toward improved fuel economy, all without any outside interference.
This means that the 2014 fuel economy regulations were created solely for the sake of regulating. Not for any real need, not to address any shortcoming or inequity, but solely regulation for regulation’s sake.
Pushing the trucking industry to save fuel is as necessary as giving Cookie Monster a minimum quota for chocolate chip cookie consumption. It just doesn’t need to happen.
What about you? Do you need a bureaucrat in your passenger seat telling you it would be good to make more money?
Tags: Fuel Economy