US sets fuel efficiency standards for heavy trucks

Washington, US:  The United States government has announced the first-ever fuel efficiency and emissions standards for medium and heavy-duty vehicles that it says will save $50bn in fuel costs from 2014 to 2018.

For heavy-duty trucks, regulations focus on how much carbon individual truck parts emit, instead of the mpg standards used for cars. Under the new standards, heavy-duty vehicles will have to improve their fuel efficiency 5% each year from 2013 to 2018.

The new standards, based on tighter fuel economy and emissions rules for cars and light trucks that the president announced last month, require heavy-duty vehicles to improve their fuel efficiency 5% each year from 2013 to 2018.  The administration estimates this will reduce the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions by about 270m tons and cut oil imports by 530m barrels during that period.

Truck makers including Volvo, Chrysler and Con-way, have endorsed the standards that reflect increasing demand for ‘greener’ vehicles.

Heavy-duty vehicles are the fastest-growing contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in the US although they make up 4% of vehicles on the road. Heavy-duty vehicles account for about 17% of transport oil use and account for nearly 6% of US greenhouse gas emissions and 20% of transport emissions according to the Environmental Protection Agency (2007 data).

Under the new rules, vehicles are divided into three major categories: tractors, heavy-duty pickup trucks and vans, and utility vehicles (buses and refuse trucks). Specific targets are set for each category based on the design and purpose of the vehicle. Meeting new standards might cost vehicle makers and users nearly $8bn, but the Environmental Protection Agency estimates long-term net benefits to society, including reduced pollution, improved energy security, better health, of $49bn.

The cost of a tractor will increase by an estimated $6,220 because of the new fuel-saving technology, which also will build on current emission-reduction technology, officials said yesterday. Operators will recoup the extra cost of technology upgrades by reduced fuel use, the EPA says. An operator can save enough on fuel to pay for the technology upgrades in under a year and save $73,000 on fuel over the truck’s life.

Bill Graves, American Trucking Associations’ president and chief executive welcomed the announcement. “We think it means that there’s going to be an opportunity to save money on fuel in the future by buying fuel-efficient trucks.”

“Fuel isn’t going to get any cheaper; anything that enhances fuel efficiency is a good thing,” Graves told The Trucker magazine following the president’s announcement.

Graves thinks the cost of the new fuel-saving technologies can be recouped, but possibly not as quickly as administration officials believe.