White House sets big rig fuel efficiency standards
Manufacturers will be required to build Class 8 trucks that achieve a nearly 20 percent reduction in fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by model year 2018 as part of the government's first-ever fuel efficiency standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, the White House said Tuesday.
The new standards, which were developed by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation in cooperation with the trucking industry and environmentalists, are expected to save up to 4 gallons of fuel for every 100 miles driven.
The White House said more fuel-efficient trucks will lower transportation costs for consumers, spur growth in the clean energy technology sector, and provide regulatory certainty for manufacturers.
'This administration is committed to protecting the air we breathe and cutting carbon pollution — and programs like these ensure that we can serve those priorities while also reducing our dependence on imported oil and saving money for drivers,' EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said. 'More efficient trucks on our highways and less pollution from the buses in our neighborhoods will allow us to breathe cleaner air and use less oil, providing a wide range of benefits to our health, our environment and our economy.'
The standards, which rely heavily on the use of commercial off-the-shelf technologies, are expected to yield an estimated $50 billion in net benefits over the life of model year 2014 to 2018 vehicles, and to result in significant long-terms savings for vehicle owners and operators. 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. These cost-saving standards would also reduce emissions of harmful air pollutants like particulate matter, which can lead to asthma, heart attacks and premature death, the administration said.
American Trucking Associations President Bill Graves welcomed the new fuel efficiency standards. 'Our members have been pushing for the setting of fuel efficiency standards for some time and today marks the culmination of those efforts,' he said in a statement.
'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. 'ATA is pleased that President Obama, Secretary (Ray) 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.'
The ATA also advocates a national speed limit of 65 mph and rules requiring trucks to have electronic speed limiters, infrastructure investment to reduce congestion and idling, continued support of the EPA's SmartWay program that encourages the freight industry to reduce fuel consumption, and reform of federal truck size and weight limits to increase truck productivity.
Shippers that participate in SmartWay are required to give a certain portion of their freight business to trucking companies in the program that demonstrate they have energy-efficiency initiatives in place.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, which represents truck drivers in business for themselves, said the Obama administration proposal would have a negative impact on small trucking businesses that would be hard pressed to afford technological upgrades. It said training drivers on ways to reduce fuel consumption is far more cost effective.
By ignoring the potential savings from a driver training program, the government will force truckers to keep and rebuild older equipment, the group warned.
'The new rule is just another example of big moneyed interests working with government to protect their own bottom line,' said Joe Rajkovacz, director of regulatory affairs for OOIDA. Large trucking companies are already buying trucks that meet EPA standards and qualify for SmartWay credits, and therefore won't face any extra costs because of the new standards, he charged.
'This rulemaking basically takes EPA's SmartWay program and mandates participation — regardless of whether certain technologies are appropriate for a particular operation,' he added.
OOIDA urged Congress to consider defunding SmartWay because the adoption of the fuel efficiency rule 'makes the program obsolete and a waste of taxpayer money.'
Last month the Obama administration announced further fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks. ' Eric Kulisch