Environment: New fuel standards for heavy trucks would cut greenhouse gas emissions by 1 billion metric tons

Trucking industry cautiously supportive of new rules

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There are a lot of trucks on the road these days, and they emit a lot of greenhouse gases. Proposed new federal rules could cut those emissions by 1 billion metric tons and amount to huge fuel savings for the trucking industry. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — The Obama administration says its proposed new fuel efficiency standards for trucks will cut CO2 emissions by 1 billion metric tons — about equal to the greenhouse gas emissions from all domestic energy use in the U.S.

The new rules would cut fuel costs by  about $170 billion, and reduce oil consumption by up to 1.8 billion barrels, more than a year’s worth of imports from OPEC.

“Once upon a time, to be pro-environment you had to be anti-big-vehicles. This rule will change that,” said U.S Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “In fact, these efficiency standards are good for the environment – and the economy. When trucks use less fuel, shipping costs go down.” Foxx said, touting the standards as cost-effective for consumers and businesses.

The American Trucking Associations were cautiously supportive of the new standards, acknowledging greenhouse gas impacts and that fuel savings will benefit the trucking industry.

“Fuel is an enormous expense for our industry … and carbon emissions carry an enormous cost for our planet,” said ATA President and CEO Bill Graves. “That’s why our industry supported the Obama Administration’s historic first round of greenhouse gas and fuel efficiency standards for medium and large trucks and why we support the aims of this second round of standards.”

But ATA counsel Glen Kedzie said the administration shouldn’t rush the use of new technologies.

“We believe this rule could result in the deployment of certain technologies that do not fully recognize the diversity of our industry and could prove to be unreliable. This unreliability could slow not only adoption of these technologies, but the environmental benefits they aim to create,” Kedzie said. “To prevent this, truck and engine manufacturers will need adequate time to develop solutions to meet these new standards.”

According to the EPA, the buyer of a new long-haul truck in 2027 would recoup the investment in fuel-efficient technology in less than two years through fuel savings.

“We’re delivering big time on President Obama’s call to cut carbon pollution,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “With emission reductions weighing in at 1 billion tons, this proposal will save consumers, businesses and truck owners money; and at the same time spur technology innovation and job-growth, while protecting Americans’ health and our environment over the long haul.”

Medium- and heavy-duty vehicles currently account for about 20 percent of GHG emissions and oil use in the U.S. transportation sector, but only comprise about five percent of vehicles on the road.

Globally, oil consumption and GHG emissions from heavy-duty vehicles are expected to surpass that of passenger vehicles by 2030. Through the G-20 and discussions with other countries, the United States is working with other major economies to encourage progress on fuel economy standards in other countries.

The proposed vehicle and engine performance standards would cover model years 2021-2027, and apply to semi-trucks, large pickup trucks and vans, and all types and sizes of buses and work trucks. They would achieve up to 24 percent lower CO2 emissions and fuel consumption than an equivalent tractor in 2018, based on the fully phased-in standards for the tractor alone in a tractor-trailer vehicle.

The science-based standards reflect input from the industry and can be reached with technology that already exists or is under development, including improved transmissions, engine combustion optimization, aerodynamic improvements and low rolling resistance tires.

The EPA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are also  proposing efficiency and GHG standards for trailers for the first time, excluding some categories like mobile homes. Cost effective technologies for trailers – including aerodynamic devices, light weight construction and self-inflating tires – can significantly reduce total fuel consumption by tractor-trailers, while paying back the owners in less than two years due to the fuel saved. The plan is to make the standards effective in 2018, with credits available for voluntary participation before then.

A public comment period will be open for 60 days after the proposal is published in the Federal Register. In addition, NHTSA and EPA will host two public hearings and continue our open-door policy of meeting with stakeholders over the course of the comment period.

For more details on DOT’s and EPA’s notice of proposed rulemaking, visit http://www.epa.gov/otaq/climate/regs-heavy-duty.htm and http://www.nhtsa.gov/fuel-economy.

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