Second Phase of Federal Truck Standards Seen Curbing 1 Billion Tons of Emissions

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By Andrew Childers

June 19 — The Environmental Protection Agency's second phase of greenhouse gas standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks could reduce emissions by as much as 1 billion tons over the lives of regulated vehicles as its proposal pushes manufacturers to consider further efficiency improvements.

The proposed rules (RIN 2060-AS16; RIN 2127-AL52), issued jointly June 19 with new corporate average fuel economy standards from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, could reduce fuel consumption by tractor trailers by as much as 24 percent, the EPA projects.

The rules would press engine and vehicle manufacturers to pursue additional technological and aerodynamic improvements to engines, trucks and trailers to improve the vehicles' performance.

“Some are in development now. Much is in use now,” Janet McCabe, the EPA's acting assistant administrator for air and radiation, told reporters June 19. “These standards would allow those manufacturers to develop further those technologies and push them into the market.”

Trucks represent 20 percent of the energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector despite accounting for only 5 percent of vehicles on the road, McCabe said.

The EPA and NHTSA had more than 300 meetings with manufacturers and truck operators prior to the proposal, and McCabe said she was confident the technologies would be available within the next decade to meet the proposed efficiency standards.

The proposal would set efficiency standards for model year 2021 through 2027 tractors and model year 2018 through 2027 trailers. The rule would set the first-ever federal standards for trailers as well as additional standards for tractors, heavy-duty pickup trucks and work vehicles such as buses and garbage trucks.

The two agencies jointly issued their first phase of efficiency standards for model year 2014 through 2018 medium- and heavy-duty trucks with similar requirements (RIN 2060–AP61) in 2011 (76 Fed. Reg. 57,106).

Truckers Wary of Technology Push 

Trucking groups were concerned that the proposed rule could force new technologies into the market before they are fully tested and ready for deployment.

“Based on reviews of initial summaries, we do have concerns that the rule will push truckers to purchase technology that is not fully tested and may lead to costs such as increased maintenance and down time that will eclipse the potential savings estimated in the proposal,” the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association said in a June 19 statement.

Truck manufacturers and operators had largely supported the first phase of efficiency standards. But they are expected to be more skeptical of the second phase as the EPA and NHTSA push for even more efficiency improvements.

“We believe this rule could result in the deployment of certain technologies that do not fully recognize the diversity of our industry and could prove to be unreliable. This unreliability could slow not only adoption of these technologies, but the environmental benefits they aim to create,” Glen Kedzie, vice president and energy and environmental counsel for the American Trucking Associations, said in June 19 statement.

Standards Would Cost $24 Billion 

The standards, which would be phased in between 2021 and 2014, would cost $24 billion, but the EPA and NHTSA estimate truck operators would be able to recoup the additional cost of the vehicles through fuel savings within two years for tractors and trailers, three years for heavy-duty pickup trucks and vans and five years for work vehicles. The standards are expected to save truck operators $170 billion in fuel costs over the lifetime of the program.

The required controls could add an additional $12,000 to the price of vehicles, according to agency estimates.

The National Automobile Dealers Association and the American Truck Dealers said in a June 19 statement that the additional cost for those vehicles could actually force fleet operators to seek out less-efficient and more-polluting trucks that would cost less.

“Recent history has shown that mandates with underestimated compliance costs result in substantially higher prices for commercial vehicles, and force fleet owners and operators to seek out less-expensive and less fuel-efficient alternatives in the marketplace,” they said.

Greater Emissions Gains Sought 

The EPA and NHTSA's first phase of truck standards are expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 270 million metric tons and conserve 530 million barrels of oil. The latest proposal is projected to prevent 1 billion metric tons of emissions while preventing consumption of 1.8 billion barrels of oil.

California Air Resources Board Chairman Mary Nichols praised the proposed rule. California plans to pursue its own standards for trucks, which would comport with the federal requirements.

For tractors, the proposal would set standards between 62 grams of carbon dioxide per ton-mile by 2027 and 96 grams per ton-mile for various configurations, which would be up to 24 percent lower than the standards for 2017 models.

The proposal would set standards for vocational trucks with diesel engines between 170 grams of carbon dioxide per ton-mile and 292 grams per ton-mile and between 189 grams of carbon dioxide per ton-mile and 321 grams per ton-mile for those vocational vehicles with gasoline engines.

Also Proposed Standards for AC Refrigerant Leaks 

The EPA is also proposing the first-ever standards for air conditioning-refrigerant leaks in vocational vehicles, which it had included in the regulations for heavy-duty trucks and vans as part of the first phase of standards.

For diesel engines, the EPA is proposing standards between 441 grams of carbon dioxide per ton-mile, a 4.2 percent improvement over 2017 standards. The EPA's first-ever standards for trailers would require them to achieve between 77 grams of carbon dioxide per mile-ton and 144 grams per mile-ton by 2027.

The EPA and NHTSA also will accept comments on alternatives to implement the proposed standards even more rapidly.

The EPA and NHTSA will accept comments on the proposals for 60 days after they are published in the Federal Register. Comments can be made at and should reference dockets No. EPA–HQ–OAR–2014-0827 or NHTSA-2014-0132.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Childers in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at