Obama Announces Fuel Economy Rules For Trucks

By Scott Doggett August 9, 2011

New Truck MPG.jpg

Eleven days after announcing an agreement on fuel-economy standards for model year 2017-2025 cars and light trucks, President Obama on Tuesday announced the first-ever fuel-economy standards for work trucks, buses and other heavy-duty vehicles. The rules, which cover the 2014-2018 model years, require big-rigs to achieve up to a 20 percent reduction in fuel consumption and greenhouse-gas emissions by model year 2018, heavy-duty pickups and vans up to a 15 percent reduction, and vocational vehicles – including delivery trucks, buses and garbage trucks – up to a 10 percent reduction.

The standards will save American businesses who operate and own the commercial vehicles about $50 billion in fuel costs over the life of the program, the White House said in a statement. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed the standards in close coordination with company representatives that met with the President Tuesday as well as other stakeholders, following requests from companies to develop this program. "While we were working to improve the efficiency of cars and light-duty trucks, something interesting happened," Obama said in the statement. "We started getting letters asking that we do the same for medium and heavy-duty trucks. They were from the people who build, buy and drive these trucks. And today, I'm proud to have the support of these companies as we announce the first-ever national policy to increase fuel efficiency and decrease greenhouse-gas pollution from medium- and heavy-duty trucks."

Enormous Fuel Savings
Under the new national program, the model year 2014-2018 trucks and buses will reduce oil consumption by a projected 530 million barrels and greenhouse-gas pollution by approximately 270 million metric tons. Like the Administration's historic car standards, this program, which relies heavily on off-the-shelf technologies, was developed in coordination with truck and engine manufacturers, fleet owners, the California air-quality regulators, environmental groups and other stakeholders. A semi-truck operator could pay for the technology upgrades in under a year and realize net savings of $73,000 through reduced fuel costs over the truck's useful life, the White House said.

These cost-saving standards will also reduce emissions of harmful air pollutants such as particulate matter, which can lead to asthma, heart attacks and premature death. At the same time, semi-truck operators should see a fuel savings by model year 2018 of up to 4 gallons of fuel for every 100 miles traveled. Under the finalized standards, a typical gasoline or diesel powered heavy-duty pickup truck or van could save one gallon of fuel for every 100 miles traveled. Vocational vehicles could save an average of one gallon of fuel for every 100 miles traveled.

Reduced Cost Of Goods
Beyond the direct benefits to businesses that own and operate these vehicles, the program will also benefit consumers and businesses by reducing costs for transporting goods, and spur growth in the clean energy sector by fostering innovative technologies and providing regulatory certainty for manufacturers, the White House said. Bill Graves, president and CEO of the American Trucking Association (ATA), said the industry had been heavily involved in the discussions with administration officials, including Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, and that companies looked forward to meeting the standards. "While it is too early to know all the potential effects of this rule, we do know it sets us on the path to a future where we depend less on foreign oil, spend less on fuel and contribute less to climate change," Graves said in a statement. "ATA is pleased that President Obama, Secretary LaHood and Administrator Jackson have taken this historic step, but we believe these new standards are just one tool we should be using to cut fuel use by the trucking industry."

But the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), the largest national trade association representing the interests of small-business trucking professionals and professional truck drivers, adamantly opposed the standards. In an email exchange with AutoObserver, the group said the new standards ignore input from small-business trucking, overlook less expensive options to achieve EPA goals of reduced emissions, and will ultimately increase new truck costs. "Driver training, which is responsible for 35 percent of fuel economy and which costs far less than any new technology, should have been the priority," Joe Rajkovacz, director of regulatory affairs for the group, said in the exchange. He said the EPA made an irresponsible mistake in its regulatory analysis by excluding the impact on those who actually buy and drive large trucks and by focusing only on truck manufacturers. Nearly 96 percent of registered motor carriers in the U.S. operate 20 or fewer trucks.

The Consumer Federation of America (CFA), which represents approximately 300 consumer-oriented nonprofit organizations, welcomed the new rules. In an interview with AutoObserver, Mark Cooper, the federation's director of research, said that every penny paid in the transport of goods ends up in a consumer's bill. He said he believes "there's a lot of potential pocketbook savings for the consumer with the standards and, obviously, significant energy savings. It is another piece of the big energy issue."

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