EPA Considers More Stringent Requirements for Heavy Trucks
Efficiency, Emissions Under Scrutiny in Multiple Industries
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in conjunction with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), has proposed tougher standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, which would cut fuel costs by $170 billion and reduce CO2 emissions by 1 billion metric tons. In short, average fuel efficiency for a 68,000-pound cargo hauler is expected to be at least 10 mpg, up by about 40 percent relative to current average efficiencies. According to the EPA, the total oil savings from all the vehicles to which the program would apply would be more than the amount the nation imports from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries in one year.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx claims that the standards, if made official, will cut operational costs and improve economic health, in spite of the potential expense associated with updating fleets to meet standards.
“Once upon a time, to be pro-environment you had to be anti-big-vehicles,” Foxx says. “This rule will change that. In fact, these efficiency standards are good for the environment—and the economy. When trucks use less fuel, shipping costs go down. It’s good news all around.”
The Department of Energy is pursuing improved fuel efficiency as well. Its SuperTruck program has shown that reasonable emissions and low fuel consumption are an attainable goal for many manufacturers. SuperTruck concepts from Daimler and Peterbilt have come close to doubling the fuel efficiency of today’s average Class 8 truck.
Still, there are concerns about requiring increased efficiency across the board. According to U.S. News & World Report, the National Automobile Dealers Association and American Truck Dealers blasted the rule, which would also apply to large pickup trucks and vans. Representatives from those organizations say that recent mandates vastly underestimate compliance costs—the price of producing vehicles that meet standards—which drive prices for commercial vehicles substantially higher. Other groups are worried the standards would incentivize adopting untested, potentially unreliable technologies, resulting in added downtime and expense for repairs.
However, given that medium- and heavy-duty trucks comprise only 5 percent of the vehicles on the road yet account for about 20 percent of the transportation sector’s greenhouse gas emissions and oil consumption, environmental agencies are keen on the new rules. Traditionally, the freight sector is open to new regulations and technologies thanks to that industry's pursuit of lower operating costs. Such technologies on the horizon include hybridization and efficient, autonomous driving.
The regulations are up for public comment for at least two months, according to U.S. News.
Ground transportation isn’t the only industry that’s being evaluated. The agency is also looking into airplane emissions regulations and reducing the pollution from coal-fired power plants.
Sources: Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. News & World Report