New Federal Rules Require 25% Reduction in Carbon Emissions from Heavy-Duty Trucks

Wednesday, August 17, 2016
(photo: EPA)




By Bill Vlasic, New York Times


The Obama administration Tuesday issued aggressive new emissions standards for heavy-duty trucks. The rules are expected to achieve better fuel efficiency and a bigger cut in pollution than the version that was first proposed last year.


Officials said the new standards would require up to a 25 percent reduction in carbon emissions for big tractor-trailers over the next 10 years and somewhat smaller improvements for delivery trucks, school buses and other large vehicles.


Overall, administration officials said the new rules would cut 1.1 billion metric tons of carbon emissions through 2027 and represent a global benchmark for reducing vehicle-exhaust pollutants linked to climate change.


The carbon-reduction target is 10 percent more than when the rules were proposed last year, and was made tougher after a public comment period.


“We are way out ahead of any other country,” said Gina McCarthy, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.


Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said the trucking industry would save an estimated $170 billion in fuel costs through 2027 and reduce petroleum consumption by 2 billion barrels over the lifetime of the vehicles sold under the new rules.


“We are at a pivotal point in our fight against climate change and its catastrophic consequences,” Foxx said in conference call announcing the new standards.


Currently, heavy trucks average about 6 mpg. While there was no specific target released for industrywide fuel economy, the standards call for significant reductions in emissions beyond the first phase of rules that were enacted in 2014.


McCarthy said the standards were “ambitious but achievable” and were decided after hundreds of meetings in the last year with groups representing truck manufacturers, fleet owners and environmental organizations.


“There were technological advances that were available to us,” she said. “It was data and it was facts.”


The rules are intended to improve fuel economy and reduce emissions from tractor-trailers and other large vehicles that transport steel, cars, oil and a wide array of consumer products. It will be up to engine and truck-tractor makers to determine how to meet them.


Analysts have estimated the cost of complying with the new standards at $12,000 a vehicle. Foxx said those investments would be outweighed by larger economic gains such as reduced fuel consumption.


“This is going to be a huge economic opportunity for those who are in the trucking industry,” he said.


The American Trucking Associations, the road-cargo industry’s largest trade group, said it was cautiously optimistic that the new standards could be met without causing disruption to vehicle manufacturers and corporate fleets.


“While the potential for real cost savings and environmental benefits under this rule are there, the fleets will ultimately determine the success or failure of this rule based on their comfort level purchasing the new technologies,” said Glen Kedzie, an association official.


Heavy-duty trucks are the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. transportation sector in terms of fossil-fuel consumption and account for about 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, despite making up only 5 percent of the vehicles on the road.


The Obama administration has already mandated big increases in fuel economy for passenger cars and trucks. The government recently affirmed its target of 54.5 mpg as a fleetwide average by 2025.


But the new rules on heavy-truck emissions are another critical factor in the government’s overall effort to meet goals set in the international climate accord in Paris in December.


The Heavy-Duty Fuel Efficiency Leadership Group, an alliance of engine manufacturers and large-fleet operators, generally supported the direction of the new rules and the government’s support of fuel-efficient technology.


Regulators said tractor-trailer owners could recoup the cost of new technology on their vehicles within two years because of fuel savings. Other vehicles may take longer to generate enough savings to cover the cost of improved engines and other equipment.


One member of the alliance, the soft-drink giant PepsiCo, said the standards would help spur more innovation in an industry that was already pushing to lower its fuel costs.


“The steps we have taken to boost efficiency of our fleet across PepsiCo have significantly reduced emissions while lowering our operating costs,” said Indra Nooyi, PepsiCo’s chief executive. “And we are committed to doing much more.”


Cutting the cost of fuel used in hauling goods could reduce prices paid by consumers. According to the Consumer Federation of America, the average U.S. family spends more than $1,000 a year on fuel costs in the trucking sector.


“This is a key consumer issue,” said Mark Cooper, the federation’s research director. “The freight industry is dripping with potential to increase their miles per gallon, and the performance standards are an effective way to realize that potential.”


Some environmental groups hailed the announcement of the new regulations and predicted they would result in significant improvements in air quality.


“These emissions reductions will benefit, literally, every community across the nation,” said S. William Becker, executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies.


But some other environmental groups suggested that the government could have set the standards even higher.


“Our research shows that they could have gone further by requiring trucks to be at least 40 percent more efficient,” said David Cooke, a senior vehicles analyst with the Union of Concerned Scientists.


Cooke said the onus is now on truck manufacturers to take full advantage of fuel-saving technology that is available.


“They need to put proven technologies to work while continue to move the industry forward,” he said.


To Learn More:

EPA and NHTSA Adopt Standards to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Improve Fuel Efficiency of Medium- and Heavy-Duty Vehicles for Model Year 2018 and Beyond (EPA) (pdf)

                EPA Targets Airplane Emissions (by Sean Duffy, Courthouse News Service)

Federal Pollution Rules Unfair to Big Trucking Companies, Judge Rules (by Elizabeth Warmerdam, Courthouse News Service)

Polluting Diesel Big Rigs, Forced from California, Head for Oregon (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)


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