New US truck standards to drive efficiency and slash emissions

US President Barack Obama leans on trucking industry to clean up its act, mandating groundbreaking fuel efficiency and emissions standards

New US truck standards to drive efficiency and slash emissions
New US truck standards to drive efficiency and slash emissions
By Brad Gardner | August 12, 2011

US President Barack Obama is leaning on his country’s trucking industry to clean up its act, mandating a first-ever national scheme to drastically lift fuel efficiency standards and cut emissions.

Under a four-year program signed off this week by the president, heavy vehicles built between 2014 and 2018 will be forced to meet fuel and emissions targets.

Prime movers will need to achieve about a 20 percent reduction in fuel consumption and emissions by 2018, with the figure set at 15 percent for pick-up trucks and heavy vans and 10 percent for delivery trucks, buses and garbage trucks.

Fuel consumption standards for the first two years of the scheme will be voluntary but manufacturers will need to meet emissions targets from 2014. Small business has been excluded from both standards.

Obama’s plan is projected to save 530 million barrels of oil and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 270 million tonnes.

The Environmental Protection Agency says heavy vehicles contributed almost 6 percent of all US greenhouse gas emissions in 2007 and transportation accounts for 72 percent of total domestic oil consumption.

"This comprehensive program is designed to address the urgent and closely intertwined challenges of dependence on oil, energy security, and global climate change," the department says.

"Setting fuel consumption standards for the heavy-duty sector will improve our energy security by reducing our dependence on foreign oil, which has been a national objective since the first oil price shocks in the 1970s."

The EPA says imports account for about 60 percent of US petroleum consumption.

Some of the industry’s largest truck manufacturers have backed the plan, which is expected to cost trucking $8 billion to comply with.

However, the scheme is expected to deliver $42 billion in net fuel savings to trucking operators over the life of vehicles built between 2014 and 2018. According to the EPA, the scheme will lead to net savings of up to $73,000 over the life of a prime mover.

"Will the technology required to meet these standards add to the cost of a new truck? Yes, but the fuel-savings will more than match that cost within one year of driving," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says.

He says line-haul trucks will save on average 15.1 litres of fuel every 160km and that consumers will also benefit through reduced transport costs.

"The standards will also reduce emissions of harmful air pollutants, which can lead to asthma, heart attacks and premature deaths. That’s another significant win," LaHood says.

Work is currently underway on the next phase of regulations to take over after 2018. Trailers have been excluded under the four-year plan, but the EPA expects to include them in future due to their impact on fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

The American Trucking Association (ATA) welcomed the plan, with President and CEO Bill Graves saying it will put the industry on a path to less dependence on foreign oil and help address climate change.

"Our members have been pushing for the setting of fuel efficiency standards for some time," he says.

Graves now wants Obama to implement a national speed limit of 104km/h for all vehicles and to electronically monitor trucks. He also wants efforts to reduce traffic congestion and for changes to the size and weight of trucks to unlock the benefits of higher productivity vehicles.

Daimler Trucks, North American Trucks and Cummins all wrote to LaHood in May last year supporting a national scheme to address fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions.

"While we were working to improve the efficiency of cars and light-duty trucks, something interesting happened," Obama says.

"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."

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