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Obama orders tougher fuel and emissions standards for trucks

New fuel and emissions standards for heavy vehicles in the US to take effect in March 2016.


US President Barack Obama has ordered the introduction of new fuel and emissions standards for medium and heavy duty trucks.

Obama has tasked the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Transportation with releasing the new standards by March 2015 – one year ahead of their planned introduction.

Obama’s order marks a continuation of a scheme he announced in 2011 that required truck makers to meet new targets for all vehicles built between 2014 and 2018.

“Heavy duty trucks account for just 4 per cent of all vehicles on the highway…But they’re responsible for about 20 per cent of carbon pollution of our on-road fuel consumption,” Obama says.

The American Trucking Associations (ATA), the largest trucking body representing the industry in the US, has issued conditional support for the new standards.  

“Fuel is one of our industry’s largest expenses, so it makes sense that as an industry we would support proposals to use less of it,” ATA President and CEO Bill Graves says.

“However, we should make sure that new rules don’t conflict with safety or other environmental regulations, nor should they force specific types of technology onto the market before they are fully tested and ready.”

Environmental lobby the Natural Resources Defense Council says Obama’s plan is an important step toward America moving to a cleaner energy future and will drive innovation in the trucking industry.

“Strong heavy truck efficiency standards will not only cut carbon pollution that fuels climate change, but also save consumers money every time they go to a store and save truckers money at the pump,” Council President Frances Beinecke says.

“This is a win-win for the environment and the economy.”

New consumption targets are part of a multi-pronged approach to improving truck standards, with Obama citing the National Clean Fleets Partnership scheme as another vital measure.

Launched in 2011, the public-private partnership program helps the country’s largest fleet operators reduce fuel use through the use of alternative fuels, electric vehicles and fuel-saving measures, such as the use of aerodynamic technologies.

The Department of Energy is responsible for providing specialised resources and technical expertise to help operators improve fuel efficiency and cut costs.

“So far, 23 companies have joined our National Clean Fleets Partnership to reduce their oil consumption or replace their old fleets of trucks with more fuel-efficient models,” Obama says.

“We want trucks that use less oil, save more money, cut pollution.”

Under the existing fuel and emissions standards, truck makers will need to reduce semi-trailer fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent between now and 2018.

The White House anticipates the measure will save $50 billion in fuel costs and 530 million barrels of oil.

Prior to Obama’s 2011 announcement, trucks were not required to meet fuel efficiency or carbon pollution standards.

He says improving truck efficiency levels reduces carbon pollution and cuts business costs, in turn leading to lower prices for consumer goods.

“So it’s not just a win-win, it’s a win-win-win. You’ve got three wins,” he says.

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