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Researching Diesel Engine Retrofits and Learning From the Research Process
Volume 40, Number 4 - July/August 2016


After identifying the regulations and issues at the national and regional level, I tackled the five states the client wanted to t rack in addition to California. Searching in the individual states’ transportation departments and other agencies’ websites un earthed a treasure trove of information. In most cases, states are obligated to follow EPA regulations for all new, off-road engines. The overall finding was that many agencies, organizations, businesses, and institutions initiated construction retrofit programs and used contract specifications calling for emission control technologies to encourage cleaner air around local construction sites.

Several states took different approaches to reduce emis sions of existing off-road engines. California and New Jersey developed a fleet-wide mandate for all in-use, off-road equipment. Texas offered monetary incentives for fleets to modify their engines. Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York mandated bid specifications for public contracts. These are the relevant websites for the states in which I had an interest:

Connecticut – Department of Energy & Environmental Protection, Diesel Reduction Initiatives (

Massachusetts – Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, Office of Energy and Energy and Environmental Affairs, Reducing Air Emissions From Diesel Construction Engines (

New Jersey – Department of Environmental Protection, Bureau of Mobile Sources, Stop the Soot Program (

New York – Department of Environmental Conservation, Heavy Duty Diesel Vehicle Inspection/Maintenance Program (

Ohio – Office of Environmental Education, Diesel Emissions Reduction Grants (

Texas – Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, The Texas Emissions Reduction Plan ( quality/terp

Keeping Up with the Joneses

After getting a handle on the regulatory landscape, it was time to find out what the client’s competitors and potential competitors that manufacture diesel emission control retrofit devices were doing—or not doing—in anticipation of the expected CARB rule. In addition to the list of 13 competitors provided by the client, I added suppliers that I found in the Manufacturers of Emission Controls Association (MECA; website. MECA is a nonprofit association whose mission is “to provide technical information on emission control and efficiency technologies, thereby facilitating the establishment of a strong and effective state, national, and international air quality policy that promotes public health, environmental quality, and industrial progress.”

The MECA website hyperlinks to EPA and CARB webpages that summarize the verified diesel emission control strategies by product name and manufacturer. I combined the informa tion from the EPA’s Verified Technologies List for Clean Diesel ( with the CARB Verification Procedure webpage ( to create a table that summarized each manufacturer’s website, products, technology, verified off-road technology, and recent news.

Finding the Takers

Next up in my research process was identifying the potential customers for the retrofit technology product. Go ing with the low-hanging fruit theory, the most likely targets were large construction fleet companies based in California that were apt to have the funds to retrofit their fleets.

The monkey wrench in finding these companies is that off-road engines do not have to be registered with the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles, so no public record of the owners and renters of construction equipment existed. However, the online trade journal Construction Equipment ( published a list of the top 250 “Giants” (a name coined by the publication) of companies with fleet-replacement values of $100 million or more. Perfect! I sorted the list for fleets with headquarters in California and added that to my report.

Go Where They Hang Out

The last few pieces of the project puzzle required some creative thinking since none of the requested information was presenting itself in a neat little package. Not that it ever does.

I created a list of California-based environmental consultants with diesel technology expertise by scrubbing a list of participants at a CARB public workshop, reviewing the EPA’s West Coast Collaborative’s list of partners, and collecting other names that appeared in newspaper and magazine articles. I then reviewed each consultant’s website to determine if they fit the criteria to be included in the report.

I ran into a roadblock when attempting to identify the California legislators who supported or opposed the proposed CARB rule. After speaking with the editor of Capitol Weekly (, a Sacramento-based newsletter that reports on California government and politics, I learned that CARB follows a formal process when proposing any new regulation, none of which requires legislative approval. As a result, there was no public record identifying where legislators stood on the issue. However, by reviewing the CARB Board Meeting’s Comment Log, where legislators, along with everyday citizens, voiced their opinion on the proposed rule, I pulled together a list of legislators and their views.

The last elusive piece was gathering a list of stakeholders who supported or opposed the proposed rule. Once again, I turned to the CARB website and reviewed the public testimony, along with the submitted attachments. In general, construction companies and groups representing them were opposed to the rule, while environmentalists and environmental organizations, including the Natural Resources Defense Council (, Sierra Club of California (, and the Union of Concerned Scientists (, supported the rule.

Stitching it Together

After acquiring volumes of information, it was time to write the report. This turned into a 70-page document that contained everything the client requested, plus the bonus of an acronym list. Knowing that I was the “silent” third party, I wrote the report with the marketing strategist and the market researcher as my audience. When the market researcher, who was client-facing, read the report for the first time, she questioned why I inserted editorial comments. Unbeknownst to me, my report was being delivered to the ultimate client, not just for use as background information by the marketing consultants.

The client wanted my report branded using her report template and style guide. Therefore, I spent several more hours formatting and polishing the report so it met the marketing consultants’ requirements. Thus, the “interesting implications” I mentioned in my first paragraph.


Researchers, whether independent or salaried, are often asked for information on topics they know little or nothing about. Becoming an “instant expert” is a job requirement for us! My approach to researching diesel engine retrofits can be applied to other projects, and not only those in the advanced manufacturing sector.

Before jumping into the research, create a research map. Learn the vocabulary of the industry, including acronyms and buzzwords. Understand how the language of the industry can be searched given the search protocols of whatever website or database platform you are using. Think about government sources, industry publications, and associations that might be interested enough in the topic to have data you need. Add value by creating supplementary material if you can. And be clear on who will read your final research product and whether they have style requirements.

What we learn from our research is not only about the topic, in this example, diesel engines, but also about relevant sources and effective search methodologies.

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Karen Klein is the founder of Fulcrum Information Resources.


Comments? Contact the editors at

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