Cleaner Heavy Trucks: EPA and DOT Hold Hearings on Proposed Standards to Improve Efficiency and Cut Global Warming Pollution

Today in Chicago, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will begin a series of public hearings on recently proposed standards to improve fuel efficiency and cut global warming pollution from medium- and heavy-duty trucks. I’ll be testifying at the hearing in Cambridge, MA on Thursday and below is a preview of the topics I’ll discuss. I’ve also commented previously on the standards here and here.

Setting fuel efficiency and carbon pollution for medium and heavy trucks is an essential step forward for reducing our oil dependence and meeting long-term targets for less global warming pollution.

  • Medium and heavy trucks, which include long-haul tractor trailers, city buses, delivery vehicles and work trucks, consume 20 percent of the oil used in the transportation sector (38 billion gallons per year or 2.5 million barrels per day) and emit about 20 percent of transportation sector global warming pollution (approximately 530 MMTCO2e per year) yet trucks represent only 4 percent of the vehicles on the roads.

The proposed standards covering new trucks manufactured for model years 2014 to 2018 will reap significant benefits. As I’ve said before, trucks are the energy hogs of America’s roadways, but they don’t have to be. According to EPA and NHTSA, over their lifetimes the cleaner, more efficient vehicles will:

  • Reduce oil consumption by more than 500 million barrels
  • Cut carbon dioxide equivalent pollution by 250 million metric tons
  • Save more than $41 billion in net benefits to society ($35 billion to truckers)
  • Save individual truckers up to $74,000.

There is the potential for even more cost-effective oil savings and emissions reductions.

  • EPA and DOT should finalize requirements on trailers in the same time frame as their regulations on tractors and engines. Trailer efficiency can be improved dramatically through cost-effective aerodynamic adjustments and fuel-efficient tires. The agencies should take advantage of this low-hanging fruit with trailer standards starting with model year 2014.
  • Vocational truck standards should be strengthened to include technologies beyond engine and tire improvements, such as hybrid powertrains, advanced transmissions, and advanced, lightweight materials.
  • Standards for heavy-duty pick-ups and vans should more closely match the requirements on their higher-volume, light-duty counterparts, on which the heavier models are often based. Similar strategies to improve efficiency and cut emissions are deployed all pickups and vans but the light-duty vehicles are on track to achieve the improvements two years earlier (MY 2016 vs. MY 2018).
  • DOT and EPA should move forward over the next 2 to 3 years to develop standards that go beyond 2018. The National Academies of Science found that cost-effective technologies will be available by 2020 with many vehicle types able to achieve fuel consumption reductions of 40 to 50%. On-going standards for new trucks will ensure the oil and emissions are achieved and truck and engine manufacturers have the certainty needed to guide future investments.