Under the new rules announced by the Obama Administration last year, all medium- and heavy-duty trucks will be required to meet both fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions standards for the first time beginning in 2014.

Developed jointly by the Dept. of Transportation (DOT ) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA ), the groundbreaking national program was met with general support from the trucking industry, as well as the environmental community. The program sets fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions standards for three categories of medium- and heavy-duty trucks beginning in model year 2014:

  • Certain combination tractors will be required to achieve up to about 20% reduction in fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by model year 2018, saving up to 4 gals. of fuel for every 100 mi. traveled.
  • 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 about 15% reduction in fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by model year 2018. Under the finalized standards, a typical gasoline or diesel-powered, heavyduty pickup truck or van could save 1 gal. of fuel for every 100 mi. traveled.
  • 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. These trucks could save an average of 1 gal. of fuel for every 100 mi. traveled.

Impact and benefits of the truck standards

The standards for trucks are expected to result in significant savings and benefits over the lifetime of vehicles built for model years 2014-2018, including:

  • Saving a projected 530 million barrels of oil and reducing carbon emissions by about 270 million metric tons.
  • Saving vehicle owners and operators an estimated $50 billion in fuel costs.
  • Yielding an estimated $49 billion in societal benefits.
  • Ensuring long-term savings for vehicle owners and operators above their initial upfront costs. 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, EPA says.
  • In addition, EPA estimates the standards will improve air quality by reducing particulate matter and ozone, resulting in societal benefits ranging from about $1.3 billion to $4.2 billion in 2030.

    Why EPA says standards are needed

    According to EPA , heavy-duty trucks are the largest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions within the transportation sector and account for a significant portion of domestic oil used.

    • Transportation accounts for about 72% of our total domestic oil consumption.
    • Heavy-duty vehicles account for 17% of transportation oil use and 12% of all US oil consumption.
    • Nearly 6% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and 20% of greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector in 2007 were produced by heavy-duty vehicles.

    How the standards will work

    The new standards for heavy-duty trucks are specifically designed to account for the different kind of work done by the three categories of vehicles.

    Heavy-duty pickup trucks and vans must meet targets for gallons of fuel consumed per mile as well as grams of carbon dioxide emissions per mile. The other two categories of trucks—combination tractors or semi trucks and vocational vehicles—must meet targets for gallons of fuel consumed and GHG emissions per ton-mile. This figure is calculated by dividing gallons of fuel consumed and grams of carbon dioxide emissions per mile by tons of freight hauled.

    Within each of the three categories of trucks, even more specific targets are laid out based on the design and purpose of the vehicle, such as a semi truck with a low roof versus a semi truck with a high roof. Serious fuel efficiency improvement goals are then charted for each year and for each vehicle category and type.

    While the first two years of the standards administered by DOT will be voluntary, vehicle manufacturers will be required to meet the corresponding EPA standards for those two years.