The Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency today finalized joint rules setting tougher emission standards for medium- and heavy-duty motor vehicles, steps that will cost heavy-duty truck fleets and owner-operators billions of dollars in compliance-related expenses. But the federal government said the move will yield a rapid payback as advanced vehicle technology allows fleets to operate more efficiently in the years ahead.
The rules, drafted by EPA and DOT's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), run from 2018 to 2027. For heavy-duty trucks, the standards will be phased in over three stages, starting in 2021. The requirements will toughen steadily over three intervals, in 2021, 2024, and 2027. For trailers, the rules take effect in 2018 and step up in 2021, again in 2024, and finally in 2027.
In their statement, EPA and NHTSA said compliance with the rules should cut carbon emissions by about 1.1 billion metric tons by 2027, which is about 10 percent more than the agencies projected they would save before their proposed rule was circulated for public comment. Fuel costs will be cut by about $170 billion as consumption gets slashed by two billion barrels over the cumulative lifetimes of the vehicles sold during the program, EPA and NHTSA said.
The agencies said the fuel savings derived from utilizing higher-efficiency vehicles "more than offset the costs" at every step of the program. A buyer of a heavy-duty vehicle in 2027 will realize a full payback in less than two years, the agencies said.
The statement did not describe how such a return would be achieved. The agencies have said that a tractor-trailer built in 2027 would cut fuel use and CO2 emissions by 24 percent compared to the current standards, which took effect in 2014 and will end in 2018. Trailer owners and operators would see an 8-percent efficiency boost over the same time period.
The American Trucking Associations (ATA), which represents larger fleets, expressed cautious optimism. It supported the phase-in plan—believed to be the longest implementation period of any rule in the trucking industry's history. ATA also acknowledged that the efficiency benefits could be captured. It emphasized, however, that the rule's success would depend on fleets' comfort levels in purchasing the new technologies.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), which represents the nation's owner-operated fleets, echoed ATA's view that truckers have the most influence on fuel economy because of their training, and that manufacturers should be given a "more common-sense timetable" that balances industry and environmental needs, rather than being forced to comply with potentially unrealistic and harmful standards set by Washington.
The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) applauded the measure, calling it a big step forward for the environment, public health, and the economy. The rules will save American households $235 a year in the short term, and $400 by 2035 as lower fuel costs result in lower shipping expenses, said EDF, citing Consumer Federation of America data. More than 300 companies, mostly shippers, came out in support of tough final standards, EDF said.