Landmark US Fuel Standards for Trucks to Save $50B

Landmark US Fuel Standards for Trucks to Save $50B

U.S. President Barack Obama formally announced fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions standards for heavy-duty commercial vehicles today -- the third set of strict regulations put in place by the administration to cover cars, light-duty trucks and now the workhorses for commercial hauling.

The widely expected rules are projected to save companies $50 billion in fuel costs, cut oil consumption by 530 million barrels and avoid 270 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions over the useful life of vehicles manufactured for model years 2014 to 2018 -- the period spanned by the new standards.

Obama declared his intention to create the first fuel economy and GHG emissions standards for heavy-duty vehicles in May 2010, just one month after the government finalized regulations in the same vein for passenger cars and light-duty vehicles.

"While we were working to improve the efficiency of cars and light-duty trucks, something interesting happened," Obama said in an announcement from the White House this morning. "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."

The standards are a key component in the Obama Administration's aims to cut oil imports by a third by 2025. In the past two years, industry groups, individual companies including Cummins, Eaton, Navistar, UPS, FedEx, PepsiCo, AT&T and Verizon, and NGOs such as Ceres, Environmental Defense Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Rocky Mountain Institute have put muscle into efforts to design trucks that use less gas and emit fewer pollutants.

The standards issued today apply to big rigs, heavy-duty trucks and vans, as well as delivery trucks, garbage trucks and buses:

• Makers of heavy-duty haulers must achieve the greatest reductions in fuel consumption and emissions. Big rigs and semis must reduce fuel consumption and GHG emissions by 20 percent by 2018.

• Diesel-powered heavy-duty pickup trucks and vans must hit a 15-percent reduction by the same year. Similar vehicles powered by gas have a 10-percent reduction target.

• Vocational vehicles also have a 10-percent reduction target by 2018. Vocational vehicles include emergency vehicles, buses and cement, tow, dump and garbage trucks.

The White House estimates that the cost for upgraded technology that would enable a semi to achieve the reductions could be paid for through savings in less than a year. The net savings in fuel costs could amount to $73,000 over the truck's useful life, according to the estimates.

The head of truck manufacturer Navistar, one of the firms that provided input during the policymaking process, hailed federal agencies for setting the new rules. "(The) EPA and NHTSA have now set an example for what could be a worldwide GHG and fuel efficiency regulation for heavy duty trucks and engines," Navistar Chairman, President and CEO Daniel C. Ustian said in a statement this afternoon.

Executives at engine and fuel system manufacturer Cummins said their firm intends to meet the new standards a year early. "The emissions technologies in use today provide the foundation for meeting the 2014 standards, and Cummins is ready to meet this regulation in 2013," said Steve Charlton, a Cummins vice president and the chief technical officer of the company's engine business.

The new standards are detailed on the Environmental Protection Agency and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration websites. The NRDC's Luke Tonachel offered highlights of the regulations in a post available at GreenBiz.com.

Image CC licensed by Flickr user Walmart Stores.