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New Fuel Rules For Big Trucks Spur New Logistics Markets

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Credit Annie Ropeik / Indiana Public Broadcasting
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Indiana Public Broadcasting
Wabash National's logo hangs on a factory wall at their Lafayette headquarters.

The Environmental Protection Agency has announced new fuel standards for big trucks, including a 25 percent cut to tractor-trailer emissions and fuel use in the next decade.

It's part of ongoing efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And it means big changes — and some potential new markets — for companies like trailer manufacturer Wabash National.

At the main Wabash factory in Lafayette, more than 3,000 people in hard hats and safety glasses assemble truck trailers from sheets of steel.

Health and safety specialist Mike Silanskis says the EPA's new efficiency regulations are adding steps to the already complicated process.

"It's really not just a steel box, believe it or not," he says.

With the EPA doubling down on fuel efficiency, he says more of the trucking companies that Wabash serves will order additional eco-friendly upgrades -- like aerodynamic side and rear panels that can contribute a 5 to 7 percent fuel savings.

Manufacturing director Bob Allen says even as more jobs have become automated, Wabash has managed to net about 100 new human positions a year, thanks in part to the new products.

"Volumes have been up, and entering the new markets has driven the need for more jobs," Allen says.

However, he notes that Wabash doesn't deal with the front cabs of trucks — which house engines made by companies like Columbus-based Cummins.

Cummins is one of several engine-makers getting a $20 million federal matching grant to develop new technologies that could help meet the EPA goals.

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