The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today proposed the first-ever national standards for reducing fuel consumption and carbon emissions for the nation's heavy-duty truck fleet. The announcement of the proposed rules—all 672 pages of them—comes five months after the Obama administration ordered the EPA to develop standards that would reduce emissions from heavy-duty vehicles.
It's not surprising that truck emissions should be on the administration's radar. It has been estimated that in 2007, tractor-trailers emitted about 20 percent of transportation-related greenhouse gases. Heavy duty tractor-trailers consume about 22 billion gallons of diesel each year, according to industry estimates.
EPA and DOT's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposed new standards for three categories of "heavy" trucks that run on diesel fuel: combination tractors, heavy-duty pickups and vans, and vocational vehicles. The rules would not take effect until mid-2011.
For the combination tractors—95 percent of which burn diesel—the agencies have proposed engine and vehicle standards that would cover fleets in the 2014–2018 model years. The objective is to achieve up to a 20-percent reduction in CO² emissions and fuel consumption by the 2018 model year, the agencies said. For heavy-duty pickup trucks and vans, the agencies are proposing separate gasoline and diesel truck standards that would be phased in starting in the 2014 model year. Those standards aim to achieve up to a 10-percent reduction for gasoline vehicles and a 15-percent reduction for diesel vehicles by the 2018 model year.
The benefits of the rules would be two-fold, said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in a statement. "Through new fuel-efficiency standards for trucks and buses, we will not only reduce transportation's environmental impact, we'll reduce the cost of transporting freight," he said.
NHTSA and EPA said the program governing heavy-duty truck use would provide $41 billion in "net benefits" over the life of model year 2014–2018 vehicles. Under the standards, the agencies said, heavy-duty truck operators could expect to reap fuel efficiency gains of between 7 and 20 percent. An operator that logs a significant number of annual miles could see its investment in clean-burning technologies repaid in full in less than one year, and it could save up to $74,000 over a vehicle's useful life, the agencies said.
According to government estimates, it will cost an additional $5,900 per 2014 model-year rig to comply with the new directive. The cost is expected to decline to $5,733 for 2015 model-year vehicles and $5,480 for 2016 equipment. However, the price tag is expected to rise to $6,150 for 2017 models before falling slightly to $5,907 in the 2018 model year.
Many of the technologies available to improve diesel engine efficiency can be purchased "off the shelf," according to a statement from the Diesel Technology Forum, a nonprofit group that advocates the use of clean diesel technology. The proposed rules would advance "widespread implementation" of the technologies, the group said.
EPA and NHTSA will open a 60-day comment period when the proposal is published early next month in the Federal Register. Comments may be submitted on the draft document through January 3, 2011, the agencies said.