Upcoming Truck Carbon Pollution and Efficiency Standards are Good for Truckers and Consumers

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Transportation (DOT) will soon announce a joint proposal for the first ever fuel efficiency and global warming pollution standards for heavy-duty vehicles sold in the model years 2014 to 2018.

This historic proposal will create jobs, save truckers and fleet owners thousands of dollars at the gas pump, and help protect our economy against volatile fuel prices that are beyond our control.

Today, trucking accounts for nearly three-quarters of total energy used to ship freight.[1] In the U.S. we depend on trucking for 70 percent of our shipping needs.[2] Our reliance on trucking to supply our economy has grown by over 50 percent since the early 1990s.[3]  Businesses pass on the cost of transport to consumers in the price of goods.  Every time the price of oil increases it sends shockwaves through the economy, impacting both truck owners and consumers alike.

Right now, medium and heavy-duty vehicles have a combined fleet wide average of about 6 miles per gallon.  Medium and heavy-duty vehicles, including long-haul tractor trailers, city buses, delivery vehicles and work trucks represent only 4 percent of all vehicles on U.S. roads and highways, but they consume more than 20 percent of all transportation fuels.

The new and off-the-shelf-technologies needed to improve our ground shipping fleets and meet the new standards can be made right here in America.

A study by the Union of Concerned Scientists and CALSTART, a research and consulting organization which works with businesses and fleets to develop clean efficient transportation solutions, found that increasing the average fuel efficiency of medium and heavy-duty vehicles (resulting in a 38 percent reduction in fuel consumption by those vehicles) could create as many as 124,000 jobs nationwide across multiple sectors by 2030, with net job growth in all 50 states.

Establishing the first ever joint standard means off-the-shelf technologies that are already used in cars — aerodynamic bodies, low-rolling-resistance tires and variable valve actuation — will finally be applied to class 8 “big rig” tractor trailers, garbage trucks, cement mixers, delivery vans and buses.

A standard will also spur the use of advanced vehicle technologies. Hybrid drivetrains and idling technology are ideal for urban environments, which disproportionately experience negative health impacts associated with tailpipe air pollution.

Because heavy-duty vehicles are a previously unregulated market, the fuel savings that will come about from the use of these technologies are enormous.

That means big savings for truck owners.

Based on an assessment by the National Academies of Science, clean truck technologies could save long-haul big rig owners $56,000 in just 5 years. The incremental cost of efficiency technologies that cut fuel consumption by 35 percent would be recouped in just 2 years.

If we also cut fuel consumption by other trucks by 20 percent, the total savings would be 5.6 billion gallons of oil and 70 million tons per year by 2030—which is equivalent to taking 10 million of today’s cars, minivans and SUVs off the road for a year (see details in the factsheet here).

These fuel standards will help protect our heavy-duty truck dependent economy from oil price hikes and fuel shortages that can occur without warning and have the potential to bring our ground shipping industry to a standstill.

Reducing the oil we consume reduces harmful greenhouse gas emissions, reduces the amount of money we send to foreign nations that wish to harm us and insulates our highly fossil fuel dependent economy from volatile oil prices.

It’s important, I think, for everyone to understand the significance of the two agencies, the EPA and the DOT, working effectively together — as they have with the 2012-2016 car and light truck greenhouse gas and fuel economy rule – to take the next biggest step to protect our nation’s economy and security.

It is a win-win for truck owners and consumers.

[1] U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration, Annual Energy Outlook 2010 May 2010.

[2] U.S. Department of Transportation, 2007 Commodity Flow Survey, 2009. Based on goods movement by weight and value.

[3] U.S. Department of Transportation, Freight Shipments in America, 2006.