Big trucks face new fuel efficiency standards

An article in the Wall Street Journal outlines plans from the Obama Administration to enact new fuel efficiency standards for big trucks. The government proposed new carbon-emissions standards as part of President Barack Obama’s broad climate-change agenda. The article states many in the trucking industry “cautiously support” the measure as a way to save money on fuel.

The new standards announced by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Transportation Department jointly announced the draft standards for big vehicles ranging from garbage trucks to 18-wheelers and including vehicles such as vans and buses and heavy-duty pickup trucks.

American Trucking Associations Vice-President Glen Kedzie said, “In 2014, trucking spent nearly $150 billion on diesel fuel alone, so the potential for real cost savings and associated environmental benefits of this rule are there.”

The government is proposing two broad categories to encompass big trucks: one for the load-pulling tractor unit of large semi trailers, and another for the trailer it hauls. The new tractor standard will mandate that all trucks built in 2021 or after must be as much as 24 percent more fuel efficient and emit as much as 24 percent less carbon emissions than an equivalent truck built in 2018, the agency said.

In addition, for the first time, the EPA and Transportation department will be regulating the trailers of 18-wheelers ad other large hauling trucks, applying standards to some models beginning in 2018 through 2027. The new standards would save an additional 8 percent in fuel and carbon emissions, compared to an average trailer built in 2017, according to the EPA.

The new environmental standards won praise from many industry officials, where many of the proposals President Obama had proposed in the past did not.

The proposed rules “will help our industry grow in a more sustainable way, which is a win for our customers and a win for the environment,” said Tom Linebarger, chairman and chief executive of Cummins Inc., one of the world’s largest makers of diesel engines.

Less enthusiastic about the plan was the National Automobile Dealers Association, which includes a subgroup of the American Truck Dealers, claiming the cost to make trucks more fuel efficient can be as much as $12,000 per truck, and is “based on potentially untested technologies,” and poses a “great risk to a still-fragile economy.”

The administration took the criticism in stride, however. The EPA Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation, Janet McCabe, said the agency expects the industry will be able to meet the standards based upon not only available technology already available to the industry, but also other kinds of tech that may not be readily available. This is something many industry leaders may take issue with before the rule is completed next year.

Vice-President Kedzie was more cautious: “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.”

Manufacturers will need to have adequate time to develop the technology needed to make that happen. Government officials say they would have appropriate time given the standards don’t go into effect until 2018 at the earliest.

Also, officials said the installation of the new technologies should lead to fuel savings. The EPA said the transport industry could recoup its costs in two years for certain trucks with trailers, and between three and six years for the smaller trucks, which include vans and buses.

“We’re delivering big time on President Obama’s call to cut carbon pollution,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said on Friday. “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.”

These draft standards are part of a larger regulatory push by the administration to address climate change without the support of congressional action, and to nail down this as a legacy issue or Obama’s time in the presidency.

If you want to learn more about this issue, read the entire article, or see the political ramifications, you can read the original story here.