Is the Middle East ready for Tier 4 technology?
PMV experts discuss some of the region's barriers to next-gen tech
Senior figures from JCB, Caterpillar, CMC, and Case CE, speak to PMV about the various benefits and challenges involved in bringing Tier 4 engine technology to the Middle East
Driven by legislation in the US, Europe, and Japan, Tier 4 engines offer lower nitrogen oxide (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) emissions in a bid to help the environment and improve public health. However, due to a lack of regulation and high-sulphur fuel, these engines will not reach the Middle East any time soon.
Some of those working in the region will be unconcerned by this news. After all, it could be argued that relaxed attitudes towards PMV regulation have allowed construction in the Middle East to flourish at a rate unmatched by the West during the last 15 years. Even so, there are a number of other factors to consider.
In addition to lessening the industry’s impact on the environment and public health, tighter regulatory standards could help bring the latest equipment innovations to the region sooner.
Moreover, the ability for manufacturers to roll out technologies on a global scale would help to reduce costs for end users, according to Chris Giorgianni, JCB’s vice president for parts and service.
“When manufacturers put two different machines onto the assembly line – Tier 3 and Tier 4 – customers don’t always reap the benefits associated with economies of scale,” he told PMV.
“However, the ability to introduce Tier 4 technology to a particular region is also dependent on fuel quality. It would be nice to sell more Tier 4 machines worldwide, but the fuel quality is not there to support the engines. This represents one of the major challenges,” Giorgianni added.
Indeed, it is not merely a question of regulation. If the Middle East is to catch up with its Western counterparts, policy makers will have to push for a transition to fuel that is compatible with the latest technology. Whilst such a move could lead to higher operating costs initially, Giorgianni contends that the long-term benefits would outweigh the short-term inconveniences.
“Here in the US, the EPA recognises that significant numbers of premature deaths can be avoided with the enactment of these regulations. There are major benefits to be gained in terms of human health,” he said.
Coupled with environmental concerns is the issue of fuel efficiency. Doug Oberhelman, chairman and CEO of Caterpillar, believes that improvements in these areas represent two sides of the same coin.
“Fuel efficiency is a big deal to our customers, and it’s a big deal to us,” he explained.
“It fits with Caterpillar values, including our newest value: sustainability. We’ve raised sustainability to a value on par with our four others: integrity, excellence, teamwork, and commitment. Sustainability is so important. We want to talk about the things that we’ve been doing for years, and then raise the bar even higher for the future.”
In Oberhelman’s opinion, major OEMs such as Caterpillar have both the capacity and the responsibility to encourage a move towards a more sustainable construction sector.
“What we’ve been trying to do for some time is to look towards those areas that are not headed for Tier 4 in the future, and not talking about Tier 4, and to get them to use low-sulphur diesel fuel,” he told PMV.
“That is really the driver of Tier 4. In the meantime, we’re going to try to influence those governments to bring these requirements sooner. It’s better for the environment, it’s better for all of us, and it’s certainly better for our industry. There will be a fair amount of the world five years from now that is still not at Tier 4 levels, but I think we have to keep plugging away to get our message out.”
As general manager of CMC – the UAE supplier for brands including Terex and Wacker Neuson – Joe Lahoud is acutely aware of how such a move would affect the Middle East’s construction market. Whilst he is confident that Tier 4 technology would benefit end users in the long term, he believes that there would be little local appetite for such a move initially.
“A move to Tier 4 would definitely benefit customers, not only in terms of fuel economy, but also from a pricing perspective,” he told PMV.
“The economies of scale that would result from a single-tier format would be passed on to end users. However, in order for this change to happen, operators would have to pay extra for low-sulphur fuel. This would increase operating costs in the shorter term,” he added.
“In addition, such a move would require governmental support, and in the UAE especially, authorities are doing their best to keep construction costs down. This is why the industry is still permitted to use older engines.
Also, in the UAE, there are no weight regulations for on-road vehicles, which is not the case anywhere else in the Middle East. These are the types of policy that help to maintain a lower cost of construction,” explained Lahoud.
It seems that despite long-term benefits for end users, the time that it takes for low-sulphur fuel and Tier 4 technology to reach the Middle East will depend largely upon the market. However, as and when policy makers do decide to push ahead with the transition, the Middle East will need to be afforded sufficient time to narrow the gap with regulated regions.
Regulatory respite in the West would offer the added benefit of allowing manufacturers to innovate in other areas, according to Franco Invernizzi, senior director for sales in Africa and the Middle East at Case Construction Equipment’s parent company CNH Industrial.
“If you look at the industry over the last 15 years, there has been little to no innovation at all, apart from engines and emissions,” he explained.
“Manufacturers like Case have invested huge amounts of money into the development of engines that match regulations. This has obviously been a good thing because machines are now much more environmentally friendly than they were.
However, it has slowed innovation in other areas. If you look at all the major manufacturers, you will see that with the exception of engines, their machines are largely the same as they were 15 years ago.”
As such, Invernizzi would like Western policy makers to take their time before moving to the next regulatory stage. As well as increasing the scope for innovation, he argues that some breathing space would give unregulated markets time to level the global playing field.
“What I would like, in an ideal world, is a break before moving to Tier 5. This would not only allow manufacturers to innovate in other areas, but it would also allow for the introduction of legislation in non-regulated regions. It would provide countries with the time that they need to reduce the gap between themselves and Tier 4 Final countries,” he said.