The Obama administration yesterday issued its long-awaited final rules calling for a 20-percent reduction in fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions of the nation's tractor-trailer and heavy- and medium-duty truck fleets by the 2018 truck model year.
The rules, jointly issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, require identical reductions in fuel and carbon footprint for commercial trucks and buses built between 2014 and 2018. During those years, the program will reduce oil consumption by 530 million barrels and greenhouse gas pollution by approximately 270 million metric tons, according to White House projections.
All told, the new standards will yield about $50 billion in "net savings" over the lives of vehicles built between 2014 and 2018, according to administration projections. A heavy-duty truck operator could realize net fuel savings of $73,000 over a typical rig's useful life—defined by the EPA as 435,000 miles traveled—and a return on its investment on technology upgrades within one to two years, the administration said.
The standards will result in savings of four gallons of fuel for every 100 miles traveled, the statement said. The nation's truck fleet, in total, consumes about 22 billion gallons of diesel fuel each year.
In the statement, President Barack Obama said that during the time the administration was working on separate fuel standards for cars and light-duty trucks, it began receiving requests from large-truck manufacturers and operators to extend the program to cover such vehicles as longer combination tractor-trailers and heavy-duty pickup trucks and vans.
Not every sector of trucking feels it was properly consulted, however. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), which represents the nation's owner-operator drivers, criticized the rule, saying it ignored input from smaller truckers, overlooks less-expensive options to meet fuel and carbon reduction goals, and will ultimately lead to increased costs for new trucks that will squeeze the smaller operators that run 96 percent of the nation's registered motor carrier fleet.
A better approach, OOIDA argued, would have been to focus on improving driver behavior, which could lead to significant fuel and carbon savings and which costs less to implement than procuring new technologies. The truck group cited a 2010 study by the National Academy of Sciences that concluded that focusing on driver behavior would yield as much savings as the use of new technologies, and at a much lower cost.
The American Trucking Associations, which represents the nation's large for-hire truckers and which had significant input in the rulemaking process, hailed the ruling. Bill Graves, the group's president and CEO, said the rule "sets us on the path to a future where we depend less on foreign oil, spend less on fuel, and contribute less [to] climate change."
Graves also called for a national speed limit of 65 miles per hour for all vehicles and for trucks to have their speedometers fixed, or "governed" at that speed.