Truck Standards Deliver Big Savings

New fuel efficiency standards for heavy trucks announced today by the Obama Administration will save money and dramatically cut carbon pollution. The standards will drive manufacturers to adopt cost-effective technologies so that, by 2027, new trucks will guzzle up to 25% less fuel when hauling goods.

These latest fuel efficiency rules round out a suite of standards for automobiles and commercial trucks and buses that are essential for reducing U.S. dependence on oil and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Cleaner Transportation

Like the clean car and fuel economy standards for automobiles, these heavy truck efficiency standards are one of the most tangible, immediate steps we can take to address climate change. Trucks are energy hogs of the highwaythey account for about 20 percent of our transportation fuel and carbon pollution, but make up only about 5 percent of all vehicles on the road.

As the U.S. population grows, we tend to consume more goods—which are shipped by truck—and to drive more. Strong vehicle efficiency standards counteract this growth and reduce the total pollution from transportation. By 2030, the Energy Information Administration projects that largely thanks to vehicle standards, transportation sector carbon emissions will be at least 20% below the levels they’d be at without them.

Transportation Sector Carbon Pollution (million metric tons of carbon dioxide)

Source: Energy Information Administration, Annual Energy Outlook 2010 and 2016.

Without standards, transportation sector emissions would be growing rapidly.

Moving Goods for Less Money

Efficient trucks deliver goods using less fuel, which saves businesses money – and consumers are likely to benefit from some of that savings. That’s why companies that rely on trucking fleets support strong efficiency standards.

Truckers and trucking companies that invest in the technologies to meet the new 2027 standards will see fuel savings in as little as two years for the biggest energy hogs: tractor-trailer rigs. For all trucks, the fuel savings will outweigh the costs of new efficiency technology early in the vehicle’s lifetime.

Truck manufacturers are supporting the standards because they are confident that they can deliver fuel-saving trucks that will satisfy their customers.

Impact of 2027 Heavy Truck Standards

Regulatory Category

Share of Total Heavy Truck Fuel Consumption

Emission Reduction from 2018

Increase in Typical Vehicle Price

Payback year*

Combination Tractors

60%

19-25%

$12,442

2nd

Vocational Vehicles

17%

Up to 24%

$2,662

4th

Heavy Pickups and Vans

23%

16%

$1,364

3rd

*Ownership year in which the fuel savings surpass the incremental cost. Source: EPA, DOT Final Rule.

One upgrade that will be key for meeting the standards is improvements to conventional engines, which are primarily diesel-fueled. The agencies strengthened the engine requirements modestly from last year’s proposal to help make sure that cost-effective, fuel-saving technologies are adopted.

Other changes truck manufacturers are expected to make to meet the standards include:  improvements to transmissions, use of idle reduction technologies, more efficient axle configurations, better aerodynamic design, lower rolling resistance tires and weight reduction.

Freightliner Truck Built to Maximize Efficiency

Matt Dozier, U.S. Department of Energy

Here’s one change worth noting: trailers are also included in the heavy truck efficiency standards for the first time. Those big boxes that sit behind heavy-haul tractors are a huge drag. By applying aerodynamic fittings (such as side skirts and rear-end “boat tails”), low-rolling resistance tires and lightweight structural components, 2027 trailers are expected to cut a tractor-trailer’s fuel consumption by 9% on average. With an incremental cost of about $1,108, truckers would see a payback within two years.

In all, the new heavy truck standards will save over 80 billion gallons of fuel and avoid over one billion tons of carbon pollution. Benefits worth more than $230 billion will accrue over the lives of the new 2021-2027 trucks. And if you compare that benefit with a price tag of about $25 billion in technology costs, it’s a program that pays for itself many times over.

Strengthening U.S. Competitiveness

Truck manufacturers in the U.S. benefit from strong fuel efficiency standards because they drive innovation and competition. Truck and engine makers like Volvo, Cummins, Daimler and Navistar have global footprints, so technology advancements made here in the U.S. can be sold around the world.

Canada has already announced that it would new adopt new truck standards that mirror our new standards. China is moving forward with tighter truck fuel efficiency regulations. Recently, European truck manufacturers—some with deep ties to U.S. companies—were fined $3.2 billion for forming a cartel that delayed the implementation of emissions-control technologies and increased costs for businesses. Clean transportation advocates in Europe argue that fuel efficiency standards could foster competition that will advance clean truck innovation into the market.  

The final heavy truck standards are good for the environment and the economy. They are a win-win because they reduce pollution while spurring innovation that saves truckers and consumers money. These rules also complete a package of vehicle efficiency and emissions standards that started with the first round of automobile standards finalized in 2010. Collectively, these rules will dramatically reduce our pollution, clean our air and help protect the planet. And that helps us all breathe easier. 

About the Authors

Luke Tonachel

Director, Clean Vehicles and Fuels Group, Climate & Clean Energy Program

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