Monday, October 25, 2010

Administration Proposes First-Ever GHG & Efficiency Rules For Trucks

Oct 25: U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood jointly announced the first-ever fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution-reduction standards for medium and heavy trucks which includes long-haul tractor trailers, city buses, delivery vehicles and work trucks. Medium and heavy trucks consume 20 percent of the oil used in the transportation sector and emit about 20 percent of transportation sector's pollution yet represent only 4 percent of the vehicles on the roads. Trucking in the United States has increased by more than 50 percent since the early 1990s and today the nation depends on trucking for 70 percent of its shipping needs. The proposal is projected to reduce GHG emissions by about 250 million metric tons and save 500 million barrels of oil over the lives of the vehicles produced within the program's first five years.

    Administrator Jackson said, "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. In addition to cutting greenhouse gas pollution, greater fuel economy will shrink fuel costs for small businesses that depend on pickups 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." Secretary LaHood said, "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. This is a win-win-win for the environment, businesses and the American consumer."

    EPA and DOT's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are proposing new standards for three categories of heavy trucks: combination tractors, heavy-duty pickups and vans, and vocational vehicles. The categories were established to address specific challenges for manufacturers in each area. For combination tractors, the agencies are proposing engine and vehicle standards that begin in the 2014 model year and achieve up to a 20 percent reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and fuel consumption by 2018 model year.

    For heavy-duty pickup trucks and vans, the agencies are proposing separate gasoline and diesel truck standards, which phase in starting in the 2014 model year and achieve up to a 10 percent reduction for gasoline vehicles and 15 percent reduction for diesel vehicles by 2018 model year (12 and 17 percent respectively if accounting for air conditioning leakage). Lastly, for vocational vehicles, the agencies are proposing engine and vehicle standards starting in the 2014 model year which would achieve up to a 10 percent reduction in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by 2018 model year.

    Overall, NHTSA and EPA estimate that the heavy-duty national program would provide $41 billion in net benefits over the lifetime of model year 2014 to 2018 vehicles. With the potential for significant fuel efficiency gains, ranging from seven to 20 percent, drivers and operators could expect to net significant savings over the long-term. For example, it is estimated an operator of a semi truck could pay for the technology upgrades in under a year, and save as much as $74,000 over the truck's useful life. Vehicles with lower annual miles would typically experience longer payback periods, up to four or five years, but would still reap cost-savings.

    The agencies said the innovative technologies fostered by the program would also yield economic benefits, enhance energy security, and improve air quality. New technologies include widespread use of aerodynamic improvements and tire rolling resistance, as well as engine and transmission upgrades.

    As part of the process of developing the proposed rulemaking, NHTSA prepared a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for its proposed fuel efficiency standards. The draft EIS compares the environmental impacts of the Agency's proposal with those of a number of regulatory alternatives. Comments may be submitted on the Draft EIS through January 3, 2011. EPA and NHTSA are providing a 60-day comment period that begins when the proposal is published in the Federal Register.
    Luke Tonachel, clean vehicles expert at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) issued a statement saying, "Heavy trucks and buses are the energy hogs of America's roadways -- but they don't have to be. With more efficient engines, aerodynamic bodies and cleaner fuels, our nation's truck fleets can run cleaner and cheaper. These new standards will save truck owners and consumers money, while creating jobs and reducing pollution in the process. Every time the price of oil increases it sends shockwaves through the economy, with truck owners having to pay more for fuel, leading them to pass on higher shipping costs to the consumer. Using less fuel will make those shockwaves less damaging to everyone's wallet."

    NRDC supported the standards, but said the "proposal should be strengthened further to maximize the environmental, security and economic benefits. The National Academies have shown that cost-effective, clean-vehicle technologies exist that can go beyond the EPA and DOT proposal and more than double the pollution and fuel savings."

    On October 22, The American Trucking Associations (ATA) issued a release indicating that the organization adopted a carbon emissions control policy supporting a national fuel economy standard for trucks, rather than government actions to increase fuel prices or alternative fuel mandates. The policy states that "carbon emission reductions achieved through national truck fuel economy standards are preferable to government actions that increase fuel prices in an effort to discourage petroleum-based diesel fuel consumption or mandate the use of alternative fuels." ATA said, "While any federally mandated carbon control program applied to transportation fuels likely will increase the cost of fossil fuels, discussions of carbon control programs should be premised on fundamental principles designed to minimize disruptions to the transportation of goods and to protect the viability of the trucking industry."

    ATA's new energy policy outlines a framework for evaluating carbon control initiatives and specifies that an effective carbon control program for the trucking industry must address the following provisions: Produce cost-effective, verifiable carbon reductions; Ensure that revenue generated from motor carriers and other highway transportation consumers benefits highway users; Ensure that any increased costs are reasonable, predictable and do not increase the volatility of fuel prices; Avoid diesel fuel supply disruptions and ensure that only on-road diesel fuel that meets the ASTM standard for which trucks were designed to run on is sold in the marketplace; Maintain a level playing field among freight transportation modes; and Provides incentives for improved fuel efficiency and availability of alternative technologies.

    The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) released its virtual tractor-trailer design, called the Convoy, which illustrates how various technologies could improve tractor-trailer fuel efficiency. In a release, UCS indicated that current average fuel economy for long-haul tractor-trailers, which often travel more than 100,000 miles annually, is only about 6.5 miles per gallon. Clean technology could boost it to 10 miles per gallon by 2017. A suite of technologies -- including more efficient engines, more aerodynamic designs for the tractor and trailer, and idle-off capability -- could reduce the average long-haul tractor-trailer's fuel consumption by 7,000 gallons annually, saving truck operators $24,500 in reduced fuel costs assuming diesel prices of $3.50 a gallon.

    Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the non-profit Diesel Technology Forum (DTF) issued a statement and said, "More than 95 percent of all heavy duty trucks are diesel-powered as are a majority of medium duty trucks. Diesel power is the driving force today of goods movement by truck in our economy. This proposal clearly envisions clean diesel power as the centerpiece of freight transportation in the clean energy economy of tomorrow. Diesel engines offer an unmatched combination of energy-efficiency, work capability, reliability and now near-zero emissions environmental performance making them the technology of choice for commercial trucks today and into the foreseeable future. For all parties, the challenge of increasing fuel efficiency while maintaining or improving environmental, safety and productivity of commercial vehicles is as important as it is complex. It is fitting that a key solution for solving this challenge lies in the diesel engine. . ."

    Access a release from the agencies (click here). Access the complete proposal and information about how to submit comments from EPA (click here); and NHTSA (click here). Access a release from NRDC and link to additional information (click here). Access a release from ATA and link to additional information (click here). Access a release from UCS and link to the virtual tractor-trailer design and related information (click here). Access the statement from the DTF (click here).