Impact of Emissions Changes

By Wesley D. Chestnut
Lead, Compliance, Spartan Motors, Inc.

During the past several months, I’ve been asked to write articles and give presentations discussing changes in emissions standards set forth by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and fuel efficiency standards set forth by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) that impact fire apparatus.

At a presentation I gave in January, certain members of the audience provided feedback that certain elements were not very clear and the topic was “boring.” It may be a boring topic, but when departments or city councils wonder why the price of a fire apparatus has increased during the past six years, it may be largely attributed to the complex emissions standards. Emissions standards have a very real impact on the price of a fire apparatus and service of the vehicle during its in-service life. Beginning with the forthcoming first round of greenhouse gas emissions standards, the regulations are more complex and apply to more than the engine.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Beginning with model year 2014, or January 1, 2014, both engines and chassis for fire apparatus will have to meet greenhouse gas emissions standards defined by the EPA. Certain engine manufacturers have opted to certify their engines early, resulting in changes to certain components of the emission control system as well as the engine. Although the engine and its aftertreatment devices may look the same as more recent fire apparatus, there are changes nonetheless. These changes have resulted in certain manufacturers having to perform tests required by the engine manufacturer, which in turn indicate to the EPA that the engine installed in the fire apparatus meets the emissions standards that apply to the engine.

Where the greenhouse gas rules differ from previous emissions rules as they relate to fire apparatus is that the chassis must also be certified with the EPA. Rolling resistance of the tires is the critical element in determining the greenhouse gas emissions output of fire apparatus as they are considered vocational vehicles. Because rolling resistance is a critical factor in determining the emissions output, tire manufacturers have had to test tires or have their tires tested by a third party and submit the rolling resistance values to the chassis manufacturers. In some cases, certain tires or combinations of tires may not be used because the chassis does not meet the applicable requirements within the regulations.

Chassis and Components

The chassis must maintain its certification for its useful life. As set forth by the EPA, the useful life a fire apparatus is 10 years or 100,000 miles. This may impact the choice of tires that are installed on a fire apparatus after it has been placed in service. Replacement tires must have similar rolling resistance values as the original tires on the vehicle. Although rolling resistance values will likely not be put in owner’s manuals or other literature related to the tire, the owner’s manual may instruct the owner to seek a tire that is equivalent to the original built tire.

There may be changes to certain warranties that relate to emissions-critical components on the fire apparatus that apply for a longer period of time than that of the overall apparatus. Certain components within the emission control system must have a five-year/100,000-mile warranty. With the new greenhouse gas emissions rules, tires are required to have a two-year/24,000-mile warranty. In certain cases, fire apparatus manufacturers may have to, if they have not already done so, update their owner’s manuals to reflect the new warranty information.


Although the first phase of the greenhouse gas emissions rules starts with 2014, other federal requirements apply with model year 2016. The next phase of requirements involves fuel efficiency standards set forth by NHTSA. At this point, changes may be minimal as they relate to the tires used on the fire apparatus. Final phases of the greenhouse gas and fuel efficiency rules occur with model years 2017 and 2018 respectively.

NHTSA recently indicated that it is beginning to evaluate the next round of proposed rules but has not indicated when information will be announced publicly. Manufacturers of fire apparatus and other emergency vehicles should be monitoring for any forthcoming proposed rules that relate to emissions standards and fuel efficiency. At this time, status of the next round of rulemaking by the EPA is unknown.

Federal regulations will continue to evolve over time and will likely continue to impact fire apparatus and their manufacturers. Impact may be related to increased costs, more stringent maintenance criteria, or both. If there are questions related to the emissions changes or other regulations that apply to fire apparatus, end users should contact their dealer or manufacturer. FAMA is another useful resource for assisting in answering questions and helping to address concerns, and the members are always willing to help.

WESLEY D. CHESTNUT has been involved with the fire service since 1991. He has served as an assistant chief in a rural North Carolina fire department and joined Spartan Motors, Inc. in 1999. He was quality engineer for the Emergency Rescue Chassis Division for two years. He has been the compliance lead at Spartan for five years. As compliance lead, he interacts with federal agencies such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). He is also a member of the Technical Committee for National Fire Protection (NFPA) 1917, Standard for Automotive Ambulances.

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