Heavy Duty Greening: Obama Administration Announces New Fuel Efficiency and Pollution Standards

SemiTruckOn Tuesday, the Obama administration, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Transportation (DOT) announced new standards aimed at reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and increasing fuel efficiency for buses, big rig trucks and other heavy-duty vehicles. This comes on the heels of last week’s similar announcement for cars and light-duty trucks.

The program covers vehicles built for the 2014 through 2018 model years and divides the vehicles into three categories: (1) combination tractors (“semis” or “big rigs”), (2) heavy-duty pickup trucks and vans, and (3) vocational vehicles (such as buses and garbage trucks). By the 2018 model year, big rigs will be required to achieve a fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emission reduction of approximately 20%. An approximate 15% reduction will be required of 2018 model year heavy-duty pickups and vans. And, by model year 2018, buses, garbage trucks and the like will be required to achieve about a 10% reduction. These standards will result in savings of 4 to 1 gallons of fuel per 100 miles traveled, depending on the vehicle type.

EPA says that this will result in a reduction of approximately 270 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions and a savings of approximately 530 million barrels of oil over the life of the vehicles included in the program. EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimate that the largely off-the-shelf technologies required to achieve these new standards will cost the industry approximately $8 million. It is expected, however, that this investment will result in about $50 million in fuel cost savings, resulting in a net benefit of approximately $42 million.

The administration and agencies believe that the program “allows serious but achievable fuel efficiency improvement goals charged for each year and for each vehicle category and type.” Since vehicles in these categories make up the second largest fuel consumers and GHG emitters within the transportation sector, EPA believes that the program will “enhance American competitiveness and job creation, improve energy security, benefit consumers and business by reducing costs for transporting goods, and spur growth in the clean energy sector.”

The EPA’s fact sheet explains that the program is “a key component” to the agencies’ response to the May 2010 memorandum issued by the president regarding developing new fuel efficiency standards. A second phase of regulations is planned for model years beyond 2018.