Not Ready for EPA Tier 4? Then Consider Buying Used Construction Equipment
Whether you’re the type of contractors who always buys new construction equipment or someone who prefers to run well-cared for used machinery, eventually your business is going to feel the impacts of the newest Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Tier 4 mandate. However, it’s up to you to decide when.
As with any new technology, sometimes the best decision is to wait until the technology is not-so-new. And, buying models that are just a few years old gives you access to some of the latest machinery innovations without having to be the company that works the “bugs” out for manufacturers.
What is EPA Tier 4
As you probably already know, the EPA’s tiered series of emissions regulations for off-road engines have been progressing for the past two decades, leading up to Tier 4 Final (T4F). New off-highway equipment with a 50-hp or higher diesel engine must meet the strictest of emission requirements.
To meet the EPA’s T4F mandates, engine manufacturers had to make the switch from mechanical engines to electronically controlled engines and use an engine control module (ECM) to regulate the engine’s after-treatment system, which is responsible for the controlling soot and NOx gas released into the environment. It’s all very technical and a bit of a work-in-progress since several of the engine manufacturers are implementing different technology to meet these standards.
Reasons to Wait
If you’re considering investing in machinery, and you can’t decide you’re ready to invest in a new T4F model here are few reasons you may want to consider buying used equipment instead.
- Price: For manufacturers, dealers and contractors the EPA’s regulations have driven the price of new equipment up an average of 15 – 20 percent. And, the extra costs do not necessarily equate to increased performance or reduced maintenance expenses.
- Residual value: On the order of machinery pricing, at this point, no one can say whether or not these new T4F models will hold their values when it comes time to sell them. There are a number of factors driving this uncertainty:
- Limited Markets: The United States, Canada and Eastern Europe all have similar emission standards in place but other parts of the world do not and are likely unwilling to pay extra for equipment that produces less pollution.
- Access to fuel: T4F engines need an extremely clean fuel source, called ultra-low-sulfur diesel. While it’s readily available in developed parts of the world, many countries do not have access to it. Using anything less that ultra-low-sulfur diesel can wreck an engine very quickly. To overcome this obstacle, either the buyer or seller will have to retrofit a used T4F machine to be able to run it in these countries.
- After-treatment System: Which T4F after-treatment system is the best? Who knows right now… just like any new technology the world has ever seen, eventually one format will likely win out, and everyone will be talking about how they can’t believe they ever used anything differently. Think about Beta vs. VHS players, Laser Discs vs. DVDs and Blackberry vs. Apple and Android. Eventually, a system will gain wide acceptance and make the others obsolete. Do you really want to play that game with machinery that is costing you hundreds-of-thousands-of-dollars? If you choose the wrong one, you can bet the resale value of your machinery will be impacted.
- Maintenance: T4F engines have longer scheduled service intervals. However, when it is time to service them, you may be spending more. To work on these new engines, you’ll either have to go back to your dealer or invest in getting your service techs certified by the engine manufacturer. These new engines are more like a computer than they are a mechanical engine, and there is a lot more that goes into troubleshooting any potential issues. In many cases, you’ll need to have special instruments to read error codes, and if you try doing it on your own, you will completely void your warranty.
- Operating training: The new engines will not affect the way a machine operates, but there are a few additional things operators need to know about these engines.
- Engine Temps: First, T4F engines are designed to run hot. In fact, they need to in order to burn off soot.
- Fuel Water Separator: Water in the engine is the biggest enemy of these new engines, and most equipment has a fuel-water separator, which must be checked and emptied every day. Failure to do so will cause water to bypass the separator and get into the engine. When that happens, it won’t be too long before you’re investing in a new engine.
- Diesel Emissions Fluid: Most T4F engines that are above 75-hp will use diesel emissions fluid (DEF). Operators need to check levels regularly, or the machine will shut down and not start up again until the error code is clear… which of course needs to be done by a certified technician.
- Regeneration: Some T4F engines use a DPF to burn off pollutants. And, depending on which after-treatment system machine has, it may need to be sitting idle to do so. Operators need to allow the machine to complete this regeneration process, or it could lead to the machine locking them out.
T4F engines and machines are here to stay, and eventually, everyone will have to make the switch. While there is a lot learn about these new machines, it’s not all bad. Equipment with T4F engines will significantly reduce carbon emissions and are more fuel efficient.You should also be aware that bids are starting to require the general contractor to guarantee that all the equipment used on a project will meet current EPA regulations. If you’re working in the state of California or do a lot of government work, you may not have a choice about upgrading to T4F engines now.