Obama Unveils Fuel-Efficiency Standards for Heavy-Duty Vehicles

Aug. 10, 2011
White House predicts the new standards will save commercial-vehicle operators $50 billion.

The Obama administration on Tuesday said it has finalized the first-ever fuel-efficiency and emissions standards for work trucks, buses and other heavy-duty vehicles.

The standards developed by the Department of Transportation, the Environmental Protection Agency, vehicle manufacturers and other stakeholders will save commercial-vehicle operators $50 billion in fuel costs over the life of the program, according to White House estimates.

The EPA's final greenhouse-gas emission standards under the Clean Air Act will begin with model-year 2014.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration's final fuel-consumption standards under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 will be voluntary in model years 2014 and 2015, becoming mandatory with model-year 2016 for most regulatory categories.

The Obama administration on Tuesday unveiled fuel-efficiency and emissions standards for commercial vehicles. (Photo courtesy Daimler Trucks North America)
Commercial trailers are not regulated in this phase of the program.

Obama yesterday met with industry officials to discuss the standards "and to thank them for their leadership in finalizing a successful national program for these vehicles," the Transportation Department said.

"While we were working to improve the efficiency of cars and light-duty trucks, something interesting happened," Obama said in a news release. "We started getting letters asking that we do the same for medium- and heavy-duty trucks. They were from the people who build, buy and drive these trucks.

"And today, I'm proud to have the support of these companies as we announce the first-ever national policy to increase fuel efficiency and decrease greenhouse-gas pollution from medium-and heavy-duty trucks."

Under the program, trucks and buses built in 2014 through 2018 will reduce oil consumption by 530 million barrels and greenhouse-gas pollution by approximately 270 million metric tons, according to government projections.

A Range of Targets

The joint DOT/EPA program will include a range of targets that are specific to the diverse vehicle types and purposes.

Vehicles are divided into three major categories: combination tractors (semi-trucks); heavy-duty pickup trucks and vans; and vocational vehicles (such as transit buses and refuse trucks).

Within each of those categories, even more specific targets are laid out based on the design and purpose of the vehicle.

"This flexible structure allows serious but achievable fuel-efficiency improvement goals charted for each year and for each vehicle category and type," the Transportation Department said.

A semi-truck operator could pay for the technology upgrades in under a year and realize net savings of $73,000 through reduced fuel costs over the truck's useful life, according to the Transportation Department.

Certain combination tractors -- commonly known as big-rigs or semi-trucks -- will be required to achieve up to an approximately 20% reduction in fuel consumption and greenhouse-gas emissions by model-year 2018, saving up to four gallons of fuel for every 100 miles traveled, according to the Transportation Department.

Separate Standards for Heavy-Duty Pickups

For heavy-duty pickup trucks and vans, separate standards are required for gasoline-powered and diesel trucks.

These vehicles will be required to achieve up to approximately 15% reduction in fuel consumption and greenhouse-gas emissions by model-year 2018.

Under the finalized standards, a typical gasoline- or diesel-powered heavy-duty pickup truck or van could save one gallon of fuel for every 100 miles traveled, according to the department.

Vocational vehicles -- including delivery trucks, buses and garbage trucks -- will be required to reduce fuel consumption and greenhouse-gas emissions by approximately 10% by model-year 2018.

"Beyond the direct benefits to businesses that own and operate these vehicles, the program will also benefit consumers and businesses by reducing costs for transporting goods, and spur growth in the clean-energy sector by fostering innovative technologies and providing regulatory certainty for manufacturers," the Transportation Department said.

About the Author

Josh Cable | Former Senior Editor

Former Senior Editor Josh Cable covered innovation issues -- including trends and best practices in R&D, process improvement and product development. He also reported on the best practices of the most successful companies and executives in the world of transportation manufacturing, which encompasses the aerospace, automotive, rail and shipbuilding sectors. 

Josh also led the IndustryWeek Manufacturing Hall of Fame, IW’s annual tribute to the most influential executives and thought leaders in U.S. manufacturing history.

Before joining IndustryWeek, Josh was the editor-in-chief of Penton Media’s Government Product News and Government Procurement. He also was an award-winning beat reporter for several small newspapers in Northeast Ohio.

Josh received his BFA in creative writing from Bowling Green University, and continued his professional development through course-work at Ohio University and Cuyahoga Community College.

A lifelong resident of the Buckeye State, Josh currently lives in the Tremont neighborhood of Cleveland. When the weather cooperates, you’ll find him riding his bike to work, exercising his green thumb in the backyard or playing ultimate Frisbee.  

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