National Emissions and Fuel Economy Standards for Commercial Vehicles Announced

The first-ever fuel economy and emissions standards for tractor-trailers, buses, work vans and heavy-duty trucks have been announced today by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation. The changes will take effect in 2014.

"These new standards are another step in our work to develop a new generation of clean, fuel-efficient American vehicles that will improve our environment and strengthen our economy," EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said. "In addition to cutting greenhouse gas pollution, greater fuel economy will shrink fuel costs for small businesses that depend on pick ups and heavy duty vehicles, shipping companies and cities and towns with fleets of these vehicles. Those savings can be invested in new jobs at home, rather than heading overseas and increasing our dependence on foreign oil."

Revealed in a joint announcement with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, the regulations will split heavy duty commercial vehicles into three groups: semis, heavy-duty pickups and vans, and vocational vehicles, which includes specialized vehicles such as fire trucks, cement trucks, buses, dump trucks and non-articulated trucks. Each group will receive different emissions and fuel economy standards tailored to the type and amount of work they do.

The initial standards would take effect for the 2014 model year and apply to vehicles made between 2014 and 2018. Under the proposed standards, semis must reduce their emissions and fuel consumption by 20 percent each by 2018. Heavy-duty trucks and work vans will need to reduce their emission and fuel consumption by 10 percent for gasoline-powered vehicles and 15-percent for diesel powered vehicles by 2018. Vocational vehicles will need to reduce their emissions and fuel consumption by 10 percent by 2018.

"Through new fuel-efficiency standards for trucks and buses, we will not only reduce transportation's environmental impact, we'll reduce the cost of transporting freight," said LaHood. "This is a win-win-win for the environment, businesses and the American consumer."

LaHood told reporters that the proposed standards were developed "in total cooperation" with the industry, insisting that "all views have been heard" and that "no one has been excluded." Jackson noted that the EPA and DOT have "very strong support from the industry and trucking groups" on the new standards and that it is "not [a] one-size-fits-all" approach.

Much of that support likely comes from the EPA and DOT's predictions for fuel savings over the lives of the vehicles built under the new standards. The agencies calculate that the average owner-operator of a semi truck will spend an additional $5900 for the fuel saving technologies in model-year 2014 and up trucks but reap $74,000 in savings from reduced fuel consumption over the life of the truck, with the initial investment paid off in the first year. Nationwide, the agencies predict that $41 billion will be saved over the lives of vehicles built under the 2014-2018 standard. Truckers alone are expected to reap $35 billion of those savings.

Vehicles that see less usage will, of course, take longer to pay off the investment, but the agencies predict they'll still break even within four to five years and show net savings over the lives of the vehicles.

Keeping down the initial cost is the relatively modest goals set by the new standard. EPA and DOT believe that existing technologies alone are enough to meet the new standards. Jackson suggested advancements in transmission and engine design, after treatments such as urea injection, weight reduction, fuel-efficient tires and better aerodynamics. Of particular concern to Jackson was idling, which she said many truckers do for more than seven hours per day while waiting for pickups or deliveries or to heat, cool or power their sleeper cabs.

Beyond the simple fuel cost savings, Jackson and LaHood see a raft of potential benefits for the country as a whole. Their agencies calculate that the standard will reduce CO2 output by 250 million metric tons over the lives of the vehicles produced under the standard. They also expect CO emissions to be reduced by 11,000 tons, NOX emissions to be reduced by 33,000 tons and diesel particulate emissions to be reduced by 12,000 tons.

Per the proposed regulation, vehicles in all three categories will be judged on new metrics for emissions and fuel economy designed specifically for this application and to reflect the actual amount of work done by these vehicles. Emissions will graded on a grams per ton-mile scale while fuel economy will be graded on a gallons per ton-mile scale. For the initial 2014-2018 standard, testing will be done with computer modeling rather than actual real-world testing.

In addition to cleaner air, LaHood and Jackson repeated cited increased energy independence as their agencies suggest that some 500 million barrels of oil could be saved over the lives of the vehicles built under the new standard. With less fuel used, truckers and shipping companies would be less affected by fluctuations in gas prices, which they often pass on to customers through higher prices for the goods shipped. Jackson and LaHood also suggested that the money saved would stay in the U.S. economy rather than be spent on foreign oil and that business would be stimulated as truck builders develop new technology to meet the standards.

Jackson said that the trailers that semis pull have been exempted from the standards as neither the agencies or the trailer makers have any experience in certifying the trailers for emissions requirements. She did not, however, rule out including trailers in future regulations. Off-road vehicles are also exempted from these standards.

Commercial vehicles have been targeted because they represent the second-largest vehicle group in terms of fuel consumption and emissions, and the segment is growing rapidly, having more than double since 1990. Jackson characterized the move as an extension of the "Clean Cars" program first adopted 10 years ago and noted that attempts to expand the program to commercial vehicles were repeated denied by the previous administration. The state of California, long a leader in emissions and fuel consumption reduction, is "very much on-board" with the proposed standards, Jackson said, noting that a national standard will keep states like California from creating a patchwork of differing regulations around the country.

The proposed standard now enters a 60-day comment period where the EPA and DOT will take input from the public on the standards. After January 3, 2011, the agencies will work to finalize the regulations by their July 30, 2011 deadline set by the Obama Administration.

Source: EPA, DOT

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