Now that Tier 4 Final Engine Regulations are upon us, you might have some questions about them. They can be somewhat difficult to understand, particularly for folks without technical knowledge of diesel engines. When it comes down to it, they really aren’t that difficult to understand when explained in plain, non-technical words.
What are Tier 4 Regulations?
Tier 4 refers to the highest tier of standards in regards to emissions reductions of diesel engines, particularly off-road diesel engines as found in tractors, earth-movers, and other types of equipment. It specifically refers to nitrogen oxide and particulate matter in the smoke – basically, what makes the exhaust dark. These regulations determine the amounts of pollutants allowable in the emissions of non-road diesel engines.
Tier 4 Regulations are, for the most part, aimed at companies that keep an entire fleet of non-road diesel engines, and can include those that make use of diesel generators for power on a regular basis. Owners of single pieces of equipment will not have to run out and buy a new, Tier 4-compliant piece of equipment.
Why are Tier 4 Final Engine Regulations in place?
The Tier 4 Final Engine Regulations signify the end of the Tier 4 implementations. This has been a process that has been underway since 2006. Tier 4 is the strictest tier of non-road diesel engines, cutting down on pollution. The Final regulations cover all non-road diesel engines up to 750 horsepower.
It is anticipated that these regulations will be the final changes for the near future, and will help to greatly reduce the fleet emissions of construction companies, work crews, and even small farms. Significant reductions will help to improve quality of life in our country. Less emissions means that living near a construction site will not be as toxic, either.
What do tractor owners need to know?
These regulations apply only to new equipment manufactured, not to existing equipment. If you own a tractor already, you don’t have to worry about bringing it into compliance. However, going forward all new engines sold in the United States will have to be compliant with Tier 4. You will be able to continue using earlier engines, as well as finding the parts to repair and rebuild non-Tier 4 engines. You may even be able to find replacement engines, although they will likely be restricted.
If you field a fleet of equipment, there are some restrictions. In this case, you can only use remanufactured pre-Tier 4 engines if they are up to the latest Tier 4 standards, or if you are retiring a pre-Tier 4 engine and replacing it with a Tier 4 engine at the rate of 1 to 1. This means that anytime your fleet replaces a pre-Tier 4 engine with a similar engine, they have to remove another pre-Tier 4 engine and update the machine with a current, Tier 4 Final engine. Another option will be to use “Best Available Control Technology,” also referred to as BACT. BACT is technology that is available for specific machine and engine combinations that can be retrofitted to bring a pre-Tier 4 machine into compliance with Tier 4 restrictions. This technology is only available for a handful of machine and engine combinations.
Will pieces of equipment with Tier 4 Final Regulation-compliant engines work differently?
There will be a handful of new switches and dash lights in the new compliant equipment. Each machine will have different switches and lights, and you will need to consult the owner’s manual in the new piece of equipment to determine which new switches control what functions, and which lights may indicate problems. Every new user will need to know what to look out for, and how it may differ from previously used pieces of equipment.
Additionally, while the new equipment may functionally be the same, you may not be able to maintain some of the systems on your own. You will also need to make sure to use the proper oils and fuels in the new machines – they will not be tolerant of using the incorrect fuel or oil, which can damage the internal components of the engine. The usage of high-sulfur fuel can cause operational issues.
Lastly, the use of a diesel exhaust fluid may be necessary. This fluid will need to be refilled much like the fuel in your equipment is refilled. Some equipment may position tanks for fuel and diesel exhaust fluid side by side for easy refilling.
What solutions are being used to create emissions that meet Tier 4 Regulations?
There are a wide variety of solutions that have been, and will be used to reduce the emissions of engines that meet the Tier 4 Final Regulations.
- New engine control modules with improved sensors. These will be able to precisely control how the engine operates, and will be able to maximize power output will minimizing the burning of fuel.
- Solenoid-controlled electronic injection systems can regulate the flow of fuel more precisely.
- Changing the shape of components, such as adjusting the geometry of the combustion bowl to improve combustion.
- Changing the materials used in producing components. Pistons can be manufactured using a stronger, more durable and more efficient material than aluminum. These would be more expensive, but also more effective.
- The use of cooled exhaust gas recirculation (EGR). This is a popular idea, which takes some of the exhaust and recycles it. It can be used to lower combustion chamber temperatures and to reduce emissions when an engine has only a partial load.
- Aftertreatments that address the exhaust beyond in-cylinder technological advancements. One of these ideas is the Diesel Particulate Filter, which physically captures particulates in the exhaust stream before they reach the end of the tailpipe. A second idea is the Diesel Oxidation Catalyst, which would be put in place before the exhaust pipe, and would contain materials that can oxidize unburned hydrocarbons, reducing the pollutants emitted.
Different manufacturers are using different technologies and taking different courses of action to bring their equipment into compliance with Tier 4 regulations. Consult with your local salesperson or with your company representative to see what the manufacturer is doing, and what they may recommend in regards to retrofitting an existing piece of equipment. There is likely to be a difference even from engine to engine from the same manufacturer – some engines might have required only a minor tweak to bring into compliance, while others may have needed an entire overhaul.
Will Tier 4 Regulations cause costs to rise?
Unfortunately, yes, engines that are Tier 4-compliant will likely be more expensive to produce, more expensive to buy, and will require Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel and after-treatment chemicals that will cause daily use expense to rise. On the good side of things, Tier 4 engines will likely have improved efficiency, and may be able to get 5% more run time out of the same amount of fuel as Tier 3 engines. Due to the new technology that is part of the new Tier 4 machining, they may end up being slightly more expensive to repair as well.
What can result from not bringing a fleet into Tier 4 compliance?
For the individual tractor owner, there’s nothing likely to happen. But for the fleet owner, they may see some or all of the following:
- Loss of bids due to bid specifications and site permits that may call for Tier 4-compliant equipment to be used.
- Local and state agencies will be stepping up inspection and enforcement in the wake of these final regulations, so fines could be more likely to occur.
- Potential profit loss due to required downtime for a vehicle to be upgraded at the last moment.
Tier 4 Final Regulations are nothing to be seriously worried about, and while they will have an effect on everyone in the industry in one way or another, it will not be damaging. The good news is, there are plenty of resources out there that can help fleet or individual owners work with these new standards, so no one is going it alone. Every dealership should be well-briefed on these regulations and the current situation, and should be able to provide a helping hand.