New Rules Proposed to Improve Truck Emissions and Fuel Efficiency

Heavy-duty trucks and buses in the U.S. will be required to cut greenhouse gas emissions and boost fuel efficiency by 2018 under newly proposed national standards for work vehicles.



The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) last week announced the first national standards to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and improve fuel efficiency of heavy-duty trucks and buses. The agencies are proposing complementary standards under their respective authorities covering model years 2014-2018, which together would form a comprehensive HD National Program.

The EPA and NHTSA’s policy would apply to three categories of heavy trucks: combination tractors, heavy-duty pickup trucks and vans, and vocational vehicles. The categories were established to address specific challenges for manufacturers in each field.

For combination tractors, the agencies are proposing engine and vehicle standards that begin in the 2014 model year and are expected to achieve up to a 20 percent reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and fuel consumption by the 2018 model year.

For heavy-duty pickups and vans, the agencies are proposing separate gasoline and diesel truck standards, which phase in starting in the 2014 model year and are forecast to achieve up to a 10 percent reduction for gasoline vehicles and 15 percent reduction for diesel vehicles by the 2018 model year (12 percent and 17 percent, respectively, if accounting for air conditioning leakage).

For vocational vehicles, the agencies are proposing engine and vehicle standards starting in the 2014 model year that aim to achieve up to a 10 percent reduction in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by the 2018 model year.

While tractors must meet the new standards, trailers that lack an engine aren’t covered, according to the summary. The requirements would be voluntary in 2014 and 2015.

Transportation, the fastest-growing source of U.S. GHG emissions since 1990, was responsible for 29 percent of all U.S. GHG emissions in 2007, according to a 2009 report from the EPA. The heavy-duty sector addressed in the joint proposal accounted for nearly six percent of all U.S. GHG emissions and 20 percent of transportation GHG emissions in 2007. Within the transportation sector, heavy-duty vehicles are the fastest-growing contributor to GHG emissions.

The comprehensive national program is projected to reduce GHG emissions by about 250 million metric tons and save 500 million barrels of oil over the lives of the vehicles produced within the program’s first five years.

“In addition to cutting greenhouse gas pollution, greater fuel economy will shrink fuel costs for small businesses that depend on pickups and heavy-duty vehicles, shipping companies and cities and towns with fleets of these vehicles,” EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said in a statement. “Those savings can be invested in new jobs at home, rather than heading overseas and increasing our dependence on foreign oil.”

Overall, the NHTSA and EPA estimate that the heavy-duty national program will cost the affected industry approximately $7.7 billion for actions such as upgrading engines, tires and aerodynamics, the agencies said. However, with the potential for significant fuel-efficiency gains, ranging from seven percent to 20 percent, drivers and operators could expect to net significant savings over the long-term, according to the two agencies.

The program could provide $35 billion in net benefits to truckers over the lifetime of model year 2014-2018 vehicles, or $41 billion in net benefits when societal benefits are included, the agencies explained.

“Using technologies commercially available today, the majority of vehicles would see a payback period of one to two years, while others, especially those with lower annual miles, would experience payback periods of four to five years,” the regulatory announcement stated. “For example, an operator of a semi truck could pay for the technology upgrades in under a year, and have net savings up to $74,000 over the truck’s useful life.”

Vehicles with fewer annual miles would typically experience longer payback periods, up to four or five years, but would still reap cost-savings.

The proposed rules “are feasible and can be attained through technologies currently available,” Bill Graves, CEO of the American Trucking Associations (ATA), said in a Bloomberg BusinessWeek report. The ATA recently adopted a policy supporting a national fuel economy standard for trucks, rather than government actions to increase fuel prices or alternative fuel mandates.

The standards draw from a National Academy of Sciences study issued this year, which found that existing technology — including improved aerodynamics, more efficient engines and idling controls — could cut fuel use in trucks by a third to a half.

The EPA and NHTSA are providing a 60-day comment period from the proposal’s publication in the Federal Register.

Resources

EPA and NHTSA Propose First-Ever Program to Reduce GHG Emissions and Improve Fuel Efficiency of Medium- and Heavy-Duty Vehicles
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Oct. 25, 2010

DOT and EPA Propose New Fuel Efficiency and GHG Emission Program for Medium- and Heavy-Duty Vehicles
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Oct. 25, 2010

Pre-Publication Preamble and Regulations
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, October 2010

Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2007
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, April 15, 2009

DOT, EPA Propose the Nation’s First Greenhouse Gas and Fuel Efficiency Standards for Trucks and Buses
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Oct. 25, 2010

DOT, EPA Propose the Nation’s First Greenhouse Gas and Fuel Efficiency Standards for Trucks and Buses
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Oct. 25, 2010

Regulatory Announcement: EPA and NHTSA Propose First-Ever Program to Reduce GHG Emissions and Improve Fuel Efficiency of Medium- and Heavy-Duty Vehicles
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, October 2010

Large Trucks Must Reduce Emissions as Much as 20%
by John Hughes
Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Oct. 25, 2010

ATA Supports Fuel Economy Standards as Preferred Method of Reducing Carbon Emissions
American Trucking Associations, Oct. 22, 2010

…Ways to Regulate and Improve Fuel Economy of…Medium- and Heavy-Duty Vehicles
National Research Council, March 31, 2010

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