U.S. to unveil new medium, heavy duty emissions rules

David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — The Environmental Protection Agency and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will propose Friday the next round of rules that will boost the fuel efficiency of medium and heavy trucks.

The proposed rules will cover new vehicles starting in the 2019 model year and last “well into the next decade” — and will include the first-ever regulatory standards for new trailers pulled by semi-tractors, two people briefed on the plan said late Thursday.

They are the second set of rules for big trucks. The EPA and NHTSA in 2011 finalized first-ever fuel-efficiency standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks such as semis, garbage trucks, buses and three-quarter-ton pickups. The standards call for those vehicles to reduce fuel consumption between 10 and 20 percent, depending on the design and purpose of the vehicles.

The proposed rules Friday won’t be final for months. The administration will accept input from manufacturers and others before finalizing them.

The current rules, which took effect in the 2014 model year and run through 2018, are required under a 2007 energy law and will boost the efficiency of bigger vehicles up to 20 percent.

Heavy-duty vehicles are the second-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions within the transportation sector.

President Barack Obama said in February 2014 the rules would be announced by March of this year. He noted at an appearance in Maryland at a grocery store distribution center that larger trucks make up 4 percent of vehicles on U.S. roads, but account for about 20 percent of the emissions from the transportation sector.

One reason for declining emissions in the nation’s commercial trucking fleet is because more truckers are investing in new clean diesel engines, according to research released Thursday by the Diesel Technology Forum.

The new generation of clean diesel vehicles is a growing portion of the total diesel commercial truck population with more than 37 percent of all diesel medium and heavy duty commercial trucks registered in the United States now equipped with clean diesel engines built since 2007.

Today’s new generation of clean diesel technology offers better fuel economy and better performance that translates into greater savings for truckers — and cleaner air for all Americans,” said Allen Schaeffer, the executive director of the Diesel Technology Forum. “We fully expect that diesel technology will remain a dominant factor in achieving the president’s newly proposed second round of truck efficiency and emissions standards.”

The Obama administration has made fuel efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions a major priority — and is also planning to set emissions rules for new airplanes.

The White House ultimately reached a deal to nearly double fuel requirements to 54.5 mpg by 2025 — rules that will save owners thousands of dollars at the pump, but will cost automakers about $200 billion through 2025.

Overall, the medium and heavy duty rules announced in 2011 are expected to save the industry $50 billion in fuel costs, or 530 billion barrels of oil, over that period, but will cost manufacturers $8.1 billion to build the more efficient vehicles. Prior to the 2007 energy law, medium- and heavy-duty trucks faced no regulations, unlike light-duty vehicles subject to the Corporate Average Fuel Economy mandates.

Under the program, trucks and buses built from 2014 through 2018 will reduce greenhouse gas pollution by approximately 270 million metric tons. Certain combination tractors — commonly known as big-rigs or semi-trucks — will be required to achieve up to approximately 20 percent reduction in fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by model year 2018, saving up to four gallons of fuel for every 100 miles traveled.