Diesel is the technology of choice for the nation's construction sector, powering more than three-fourths of all heavy construction equipment.

Diesel-powered vehicles are used on American construction sites to deliver supplies, materials, and workers. Earthmovers, bulldozers, bucket loaders, backhoes, cranes, pavers, excavators, and motor graders are the recognizable tools of construction, and all are essential to building and expanding our economic infrastructure. For most of these machines, there’s simply no substitute for diesel power. No viable alternative has yet emerged for the largest construction equipment that or that with demanding duty cycles.

Building the US Economy

In the construction sector 98% of all energy use comes from diesel. Construction accounts for 55% of off-road fuel use in the U.S.  where the construction industry employs nearly 6 million people and contributes about $850 billion annually to the economy.

Read more about diesel's impact on the American economy.


Advancements in Diesel Technology: Lowering Emissions and Improving Efficiency

Beginning in 2004, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency challenged diesel engine and equipment makers to virtually eliminate emissions from a wide range of diesel engines used in construction, farm, and industrial off-road applications.

New ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel was introduced in the US in 2010 that enabled the use of advanced engine combustion strategies and emissions control technology like particulate filters and selective catalytic reduction systems on many machines.

Manufacturers responded and produced engines and equipment with increasingly low-emissions technology leading up to what is known as the fourth generation, or “Tier 4” advanced diesel technology. Compared to previous generations of technology, new advanced diesel technology engines and equipment in use since 2014 delivers 90% decrease in particulate matter (PM) and 90% reduction in nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions. This includes the full range of engines and equipment found on every construction project such as wheel loaders, backhoes, excavators, and bulldozers.

Equipment powered by today’s fourth generation of advanced diesel technology provides even greater energy efficiency and productivity in addition to near zero emissions. It’s an important combination for contractors, providing a competitive edge in reducing environmental impacts from construction. With increasing demands for green construction practices particularly on infrastructure and public works projects looking to win these important bids.

Productivity enhancements and fuel saving Innovations to construction equipment include hybridization in some machines with a duty cycle of repetitive work and high idle time. Advanced technology diesel engines coupled with hybrid systems enable operators to capture and use otherwise wasted energy from these repetitive motions and tasks. Examples include large wheel loaders moving and loading large amounts of aggregate, stone, rock, and sand at a quarry.

Construction equipment makers are increasing utilizing connectivity, telematics and GPS guided smart technologies to boost productivity and reduce fuel consumption while reducing greenhouse gas and other emissions. These technologies that are increasingly standard on new machines provide the operator the ability to connect all construction equipment on a site, monitor conditions on a real time basis and minimize excess emissions and fuel consumption. GPS guided site preparation equipment like bulldozers, scrapers, and pavers ensure precision operation that reduces the number of passes to achieve a desired land grade and preparation.

Mining operations are effectively the largest scale construction projects and have been among the earliest adopters of autonomous technology in mining trucks and articulated vehicles. The latest GPS and advanced radar technology allow operators to precisely pre-program equipment operations to optimize equipment utilization and minimize fuel use. Also, because construction sites are inherently dangerous, autonomous vehicles can enhance worksite safety by running without a human operator.

Optimized for efficiency, these machines can complete work in less time, achieving fuel savings – which means reducing CO2 – and also freeing up crews for other functions thereby reducing labor costs which is typically one of the largest cost-centers for construction sites. One manufacturer estimates autonomous technology can reduce the cost of total operations by 13%.

Watch our webinar about smart and connected construction technology, and other recent advancements, in the construction industry. 



Learn more by downloading our report: Clean Diesel Technology for Off-Road Engines and Equipment: Tier 4 and More.