Proposed Truck Standards a Milestone, but Some Savings Opportunities Left Untapped

October 25, 2010

Media Contact(s):

Therese Langer, 202-507-4013, Transportation Program Director

Washington, D.C. —  Today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation proposed the first-ever fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks and buses. The affected vehicles, ranging from large pickup trucks to big rigs, today consume about 2.5 million barrels of oil per day, one-fifth of total transportation oil use in the U.S.

ACEEE applauded the agencies tackling this essential but complex task. “Setting fuel efficiency standards for trucks is a crucial step toward saving oil and reducing emissions from the transportation sector. And it will help keep down the price of goods that move by truck,” said Therese Langer, Director of ACEEE’s Transportation Program.

Nonetheless, Langer noted: “The proposal misses some important opportunities to save fuel.” A National Academy of Sciences study published earlier this year shows how long-haul tractor-trailers — the biggest diesel users — could reduce their fuel consumption by at least 35 percent by 2017, using measures that would pay for themselves in two years. Yet the proposed rule calls for no more than 20 percent savings. Trailers are not covered by the rule, even though improving trailers’ aerodynamics and tires alone could reduce fuel use by 10 percent.

In addition, said Langer, “the program needs to do more to draw advanced technologies into the market.”

Especially for “vocational” trucks such as refuse trucks, delivery vans, utility trucks, and school buses, the standards should ensure that companies using newer technologies, from advanced transmissions to hybrid drive trains, can readily get credit for doing so. Moreover, the standards should set the efficiency bar high enough that the entire industry will start using these technologies sooner rather than later. The proposed standards would require little of the “vocational” trucks, however, and as a result would not do much to accelerate the uptake of advanced technologies. Similarly, while engine improvements anticipated later in this decade could achieve fuel savings in excess of ten percent, the proposal calls for only six percent.

“U.S. companies are leaders in advanced truck and engine technologies,” said Langer. “A strengthened final rule can help them consolidate that advantage and lead in the global market.”

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy is an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing energy efficiency as a means of promoting economic prosperity, energy security, and environmental protection. 2010 marks ACEEE’s 30th anniversary as an organization.