Part II: GHG Phase II: 10 key points in the proposed truck standards

The trucking industry news site Fleet Owner features an article addressing 10 key points on the proposed truck standards for Phase II of the new Obama Administration greenhouse gas (GHG) laws. The article addresses the environmental impact produced by heavy- and medium-duty trucks, as well as the measures taken by the federal government to reduce that impact through improved fuel efficiency.

The government says that big trucks are responsible for about 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions that come from vehicles, but in the U.S. constitute about 5 percent of the total number of vehicles on the road. Recognizing this disparity, the Obama administration has come up with a plan to reduce it through mandated efficiency standards for new trucks hitting the road between the years 2021 and 2027.

These standards are expected to reduce fuel consumption over the life of the trucks that constitutes a year’s worth of oil imported to America from OPEC. That’s a great deal of oil savings over a period of just a few years.

This article, written by Fleet Owner writer Kevin Jones, outlines these 10 key points. The first five points dealt with points mostly concerning environmental impacts of big trucks.

Here then are the second 5.

  1. How much is all of this going to cost a truck buyer? Jones calls cost “the good news for truck operators.” The improvements suggested by this plan will essentially pay for themselves in the guise of reduced fuel expenses. These additions are expected to add an estimated $10,000 to $12,000 cost to a tractor trailer, the EPA puts the “payback” for model year 2027 at two years for a tractor/trailer combo, three years for pickups and vans, and 6 years for a vocational vehicle.
  2. Why trailers? Trailers pulled by combination tractors are considered part of the tractor, and trailers have a significant contribution to pollution emissions and to the truck’s level of fuel consumption, according to the EPA. Adding measures like improved aerodynamics, low-rolling resistance tires, and automatic tire inflation systems can offer great savings in the form of reduced carbon dioxide emissions and reduced fuel use.
  3. Why engine standards? Phase II of the government’s GHG reduction program continues Phase I’s trend of establishing separate standards and test cycles for tractor engines, vocational diesel engines, and vocational gasoline engines, all standards that some truck makers have suggested will “complicate matters” when the time comes to assess the whole vehicle. The diesel engine standards would reduce carbon dioxide emissions and fuel consumption by up to an additional 4 percent from Phase I. Technologies that are capable of being used to meet those standards include combustion optimization, improved air handling, reduced friction from within the engine, improved emissions after-treatment technologies, and waste heat recovery.
  4. Who wins? Of course, in the end the benefits of this program depend on “how one feels about anthropogenic climate change, and how much one values the survival of civilization for generations hence,” Jones wrote. Jones goes on to list out numbers that make the program look worthwhile, cutting carbon emissions, saving vehicle owners a significant amount of money ($170 billion in fuel costs over the lifetime of the vehicles sold), and a total of about $230 billion in net benefits.
  5. Where are the details? Jones closes out his coverage of this new government plan for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by offering links to more than 2,500 pages worth of facts, details, and numbers for the proposed plan, including shorter fact sheets, the proposed rule itself, and the Draft Regulatory Impact Analysis.

Jones seems to believe in the government’s plan to improve fuel efficiency and reduce greenhouse emissions from within the trucking industry, and his writing suggests the plan is attainable and will benefit not just the environment, but the trucking industry and consumers as well.

If the plan works, it may provide a significant impact to the environment in a positive way, while actually providing increased benefits in terms of dollars and cents.

Writer Kevin Jones of the trucking industry news site Fleet Owner has an article spotlighting the trucking industry’s reactions to the Obama Administration’s latest proposed guidelines for heavy- and medium-duty trucks that constitutes Phase II of their plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Jones notes that “reaction has been swift and varied,” as many people react to the guidelines. An environmental group believes the new standards are “historic, while an association of truck dealers isn’t so sure,” Jones writes.

And while many industry groups hold off on commenting until experts are able to adequately parse through the 1,300 pages of the report, others are not. The National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) and American Truck Dealers (ATD) said in a statement, “Affordable transportation is the bedrock of the American economy, and adding—by the administration’s own estimate –an average of just under $12,000 to the cost of a new truck through mandates based on potentially untested technologies is a great risk to a still-fragile economy.”

The groups go on to say “Recent history has shown that mandates with underestimated compliance costs result in substantially higher prices for commercial vehicles, and force fleet owners and operators to seek out less-expensive and less fuel-efficient alternatives in the marketplace. The costs could even drive small fleets and owner-operators out of business, costing jobs and only further impeding economic growth. While supportive of affordable fuel-economy improvements, ATD is closely reviewing the proposal and the many potential impacts it will have on truck dealerships and their customers.”

This reaction is certainly of the mixed to negative variety, but it is far from the only sentiment. Tom Linebarger, the chairman and CEO of Cummins, Inc. says “Cummins supports the proposed Phase II rule and believes it will help our industry grow in a more sustainable way, which is a win for our customers and win for the environment. The rule, which was developed through a collaborative effort with agencies and industry partners, builds on the emissions reductions and fuel efficiency gains that the Phase I standards helped make possible. We look forward to the process of finalizing these new standards. Cummins is committed to continuing to use our technological leadership to develop products that our customers rely on, while also reducing our environmental footprint.”

His reaction is much more positive, and reflects the prevailing theme that those who are committed to environmental improvement have a more positive reaction to the news. While there are pro and con sides, there also seem to be groups that take a somewhat more neutral approach, such as Wabash National.

“As the largest semi-trailer manufacturer in North America, we will continue to work with the EPA and NHTSA as they finalize a trailer program intended to improve fuel economy in our industry,” said abash National President and CEO Richard Giromini, who is taking a more restrained, see-what-happens attitude. “As a leader in advanced trailer aerodynamic technologies, we want to ensure that the new rule offers multiple options, in an effort to simplify compliance, while maximizing environmental benefits and overall cost savings for the fleets.”

There are many other reactions to these latest proposed standards, which seek to improve fuel efficiency for big trucks. Proponents of the standards say these standards make a viable environmental impact while in the long run saving the trucking companies money and, in improving fuel efficiency significantly, provides an economic impact sufficient to offset the costs the additional technology would incur.

Opponents say the effects will still be negative, adding up to $12,000 to $13,000 to the cost of each truck purchased that meets the standards.

So whichever side of the debate you are on, understand that there is a clear and loud voice of opposition from within industry, from the environmental community, and from the general public. It’s always important when choosing sides on a given debate to reason personally and, while listening to other points of view, not falling victim to partisan politics and listening to prevailing sentiment. Take a full look at the situation and make your decision based on the real benefits and drawbacks, not partisan spin, half-truths, and falsehoods.