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Up to 20 Percent Improvement by 2018 Sought in Fuel Economy for Large Trucks

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Obama administration announced final rules Aug. 9 setting the first greenhouse gas emissions and fuel economy standards for medium- and heavy-duty pickup trucks, delivery vehicles, and tractor trailers.

The final rules, which are supported by the trucking industry, set standards for model years 2014 through 2018 and will require manufacturers to improve fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions by up to 20 percent for some models by 2018.

The rules are expected to save 530 million barrels of oil and prevent 270 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions, according to the administration.

Heavy-duty vehicles account for 6 percent of national greenhouse gas emissions, according to the administration. Transportation accounts for about 77 percent of domestic oil consumption with heavy-duty vehicles accounting for 17 percent of transportation oil use.

The rules, issued jointly by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency, amend 49 C.F.R. Parts 523, 534, and 535 and 40 C.F.R Parts 85, 86, 600, 1033, 1036, 1037, 1039, 1065, 1066, and 1068. They will be published in the Federal Register.

EPA and NHTSA proposed the rules in November 2010 (75 Fed. Reg. 74,152; 205 DEN A-4, 10/26/10).

The rules will require tractor trailers to improve fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent from current levels by 2018. That will save up to 4 gallons of fuel for every 100 miles traveled.

The rule does not set separate standards for the tractor trailers themselves. However, EPA and NHTSA said they could be included in regulations beyond model year 2018.

15 Percent Hike for Heavy-Duty Pickups

For heavy-duty pickup trucks and vans, the final rules require them to improve fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent by 2018 with separate standards for diesel and gasoline engines. That will save an estimated 1 gallon of fuel per 100 miles traveled, according to the administration.

For delivery trucks, buses, and garbage trucks, known as “vocational vehicles,” the final rules require them to improve fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent by 2018. That will translate to approximately 1 gallon of fuel saved for every 100 miles traveled.

Senior administration officials said the standards are set as greenhouse gas and fuel consumption reduction requirements rather than a miles-per-gallon standard because of the variability of the vehicles, their use, and their cargo.

Complying with the fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions improvements will cost the trucking industry an estimated $8 billion, according to EPA and NHTSA. Vehicle owners are expected to save $50 billion in fuel costs over the life of the program.

Rule Includes Flexibility Options

Truck manufacturers will have some flexibility in how they meet the fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards.

The fuel economy improvements, which are administered by NHTSA, will be voluntary for the first two model years. However, the greenhouse gas emissions reductions, administered by EPA, will be mandatory. The final rules exclude small businesses from both the greenhouse gas and fuel economy requirements.

Tractor trailer and vocational vehicle manufacturers will receive credits if they achieve fuel economy and greenhouse gas improvements beyond what is required by the rules. They will also receive credits for early deployment of new, more efficient technologies. Those credits can be used to offset higher emissions or fuel economy from other vehicles in their fleet or be sold to other manufacturers.

EPA and NHTSA relaxed some of the restrictions on trading credits in response to comments on the proposed rule. As proposed, the rule would have limited credit trading only to similar vehicles meeting the same standard. Instead, the final rules will allow credits to be traded between vehicles of the same weight class. Weight classes include light heavy-duty vehicles, (Classes 2b-5); medium heavy-duty vehicles (Classes 6-7); and heavy heavy-duty.

“We do not expect emissions from engines and vehicles—when restricted by weight class—to be dissimilar,” EPA and NHTSA said. “We therefore expect that the lifetime vehicle performance and emissions levels will be very similar across these defined categories, and the estimated credit calculations will fairly ensure the expected fuel consumption and [greenhouse gas] reductions.”

Manufacturers of heavy-duty trucks and vans will also have a fleetwide averaging system similar to that used by passenger vehicle manufacturers to meet their fuel economy requirements.

Trucking Industry Supports Rules

President Obama said in a statement the rules come with the support of the trucking industry.

“While we were working to improve the efficiency of cars and light-duty trucks, something interesting happened,” he said. “We started getting letters asking that we do the same for medium- and heavy-duty trucks. They were from the people who build, buy, and drive these trucks. And today, I'm proud to have the support of these companies as we announce the first-ever national policy to increase fuel efficiency and decrease greenhouse gas pollution from medium- and heavy-duty trucks.”

The White House canceled plans for Obama to announce the fuel economy and greenhouse gas requirements Aug. 9, so he could be on hand for the arrival of caskets carrying servicemen killed in Afghanistan.

Jed Mandel, president of the Engines Manufacturers Association and Truck Manufacturers Association, said in an Aug. 9 statement his organizations “strongly support a uniform national program” for greenhouse gas emissions for medium- and heavy-duty trucks.

“We applaud EPA and NHTSA for their willingness to listen to manufacturers' concerns related to the unique and complex aspects of the commercial engine and vehicle market and their efforts to finalize a manageable and implementable program that incorporates the principles outlined by the president and industry in May of last year,” Mandel said.

Bill Graves, president and chief executive officer of the American Trucking Associations, said in a statement the standards are “welcome news.”

“Our members have been pushing for the setting of fuel efficiency standards for some time and today marks the culmination of those efforts,” he said.

Trucking industry representatives were also supportive of the rules when they were proposed (24 DEN A-9, 2/4/11).

California Backs Rules

California, which has its own greenhouse gas regulations for heavy-duty vehicles, also supported EPA and NHTSA's rules.

“California fully supports the development of these national regulations, as it will help us meet the goals established by the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, also known as AB 32,” the California Air Resources Board said in a statement. “AB 32 mandates a reduction of our state's greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Steady progress along this path is vital for our state and for the country as we work to stabilize the climate and address the threat of global climate change.”

The heavy-duty truck rule follows Obama's July 29 announcement that the fuel economy standard for passenger cars and light-duty trucks would increase to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025 (147 DEN A-1, 8/1/11).

The light-duty vehicle standards will require car manufacturers to increase the fuel economy of their vehicles by 5 percent annually for model years 2017 through 2025. Makers of light-duty trucks would be required to increase their annual fuel economy by 3.5 percent through 2021 and then by 5 percent per year through 2025.

EPA and NHTSA outlined plans for the proposed fuel economy standards in a supplemental notice published in the Federal Register Aug. 9 (76 Fed. Reg. 48,758; 153 DEN A-5, 8/9/11).

By Andrew Childers 

The final rule and supporting material for fuel effciency and greenhouse gas emissions of medium- and heavy-duty trucks are available at http://www.epa.gov/otaq/climate/regulations.htm. 

For more information, contact Lily Smith in NHTSA's Office of Chief Counsel at (202) 366-2992 or Lauren Steele in EPA's Office of Transportation and Air Quality at (734) 214-4788 or steele.lauren@epa.gov.