Last fall, at a meeting of the Iowa Motor Truck Association Board of Directors, a show of hands was called for on the question of who was using biodiesel in their over-the-road trucking operations. Almost all of Iowa's trucking industry leaders were in attendance and of the 45 motor carriers present, not one had any significant use of the product.
A second show of hands was requested regarding which carriers would be willing to use the product and every motor carrier at the table put a hand in the air. Motor carriers in Iowa clearly wanted to take the lead in supporting Iowa-based fuel production but were concerned with three main issues regarding biodiesel.
The price of the product had to be competitive and carriers were concerned with the integrity and purity of the product itself. In addition, carriers were totally opposed to a state mandate for use of biodiesel based upon a Minnesota mandate for the fuel, which proved to be a disaster for users and producers.
New approach to promote biodiesel
Based upon these concerns, the Iowa Motor Truck Association approached the Iowa legislature in January and asked for consideration of an IMTA policy that would feature a market-based approach for promoting biodiesel usage. In addition, action was requested on legislation that would also guarantee the purity of the product, says Scott Weiser, president of the association.
First, IMTA and allied business organizations asked the legislature to enact specific quality standards for biodiesel produced in this state. This required consultation with national standard setting organizations, engine manufacturers and fuel producers.
"Second, our group insisted that penalties for producers who knowingly allow an off-standard product to enter the supply stream must be substantial," he adds. "This was a direct response to the Minnesota mandate that many believe caused overburdened producers to distribute poor-quality biodiesel. In our business, that means stalled trucks all across the state with clogged fuel filters and unhappy customers."
Biodiesel must be tested for quality
A third proposal directed at maintaining superior quality was a new requirement that the product be thoroughly tested at the site of manufacture before one drop of biodiesel is loaded onto a truck or rail car at the plant, says Weiser. On-site testing was necessary to protect motor carriers, fuel producers, and marketers who, in effect, handle the product "downstream."
In addition, this requirement would mean that violators could be identified quickly and shut down in order to stop the flow of off-standard biodiesel.
As a major cost factor for trucking companies, the price of biodiesel had to be competitive in the market. Based upon the success of market based incentives for the use of ethanol, legislators approved a three cent per gallon tax credit for marketers who pump at least 50% of their diesel sales as biodiesel. Because no new tanks or equipment are needed by fuel marketers to handle biodiesel, the tax credit should be a powerful incentive for marketers to introduce the product to customers.
Testing biodiesel in over-the-road trucks
"Our organization and its statewide membership are pleased that these recommendations were enacted by overwhelming bipartisan majorities in both houses and were signed into law by Gov. Vilsack," says Weiser. "The development and success of this legislation is a prime example of how business and industry can unite with agricultural interests in pursuit of a policy that will benefit all Iowans and our nation as well.
"With the enactment of this landmark legislation, which will become a model for other states as well, our role at IMTA is now to begin to test biodiesel in the very demanding over the road trucking environment. We are currently working to identify interested carriers and then construct a meaningful trial for the product.
"With a successful rollout of Iowa produced biodiesel as new manufacturing plants come on line, our members will not only be carrying the products Iowans use and need everyday, we will also be carrying the good news about Iowa's renewable resource for the future."
The Iowa Motor Truck Association is a statewide trade association representing the interests of over 850 trucking companies and their suppliers based in Des Moines Iowa. Scott Weiser, who has been with IMTA for 27 years, serves as president and chief spokesman for the organization.