Related content: Industry reacts to fuel economy standards

Industry responses to the proposed fuel economy standards unveiled yesterday by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have been generally positive. Only hours after the joint announcement by the two agencies, a number of suppliers to the industry, including engine manufacturers, truck OEMs, drivetrain suppliers and others, issued statements indicating support for the approach to reducing greenhouse gas emission through better truck efficiency.

The Engine Manufacturers Association (EMA) and Truck Manufacturers Association (TMA), for example, “encouraged and supported the President’s efforts to assure that the two federal agencies coordinate efforts to propose a single national GHG reduction and fuel efficiency improvement program.”

“As the primary manufacturers of medium and heavy-duty engines and vehicles in the United States, EMA and TMA members have always focused on improving fuel efficiency and have made significant advances in reducing fuel use in medium and heavy-duty engines and vehicles,” Jed Mandel, EMA president, noted. “Better fuel efficiency is a key customer demand in the commercial vehicle sector, and our members continuously work to introduce better and more efficient technologies and systems into the marketplace. Because improved efficiency also results in lower greenhouse gas emissions, engine and truck manufacturers’ efforts to improve fuel efficiency for our customers align well with the overall goals of the regulation proposed today.”

Engine maker, Cummins, Inc., was also quick to endorse the proposed standards. “For some time now, Cummins has advocated for consistent and responsible regulations that recognize the needs of business, offer clear direction and provide incentives to companies that create innovative technologies as well as jobs in this country,” said Rich Freeland, Cummins Engine Business president. “Such regulations also add real value to our customers, as better fuel economy lowers their operating costs while significantly benefiting the environment. We look forward to working with the EPA, DOT and other stakeholders in developing the final rule.”

The Diesel Technology Forum was positive, as well. “More than 95% of all heavy-duty trucks are diesel-powered as are a majority of medium-duty trucks,” said Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the non-profit Diesel Technology Forum. “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,” Schaeffer said. “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.

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“While not a new concept to diesel engine and truck manufacturers, pursuit of greater fuel efficiency has always been a key driver of product development to meet customer demands. As we learn more about the details of the proposal, it is expected that the proposed rule will likely expand the deployment of existing technologies and demand further innovation that recognizes the unique considerations of the trucking industry and commercial heavy-duty applications,” he added.

Component manufacturer ArvinMeritor noted that “ArvinMeritor recognizes the need for the Environmental Protection Agency’s and the Transportation Department’s recently announced fuel efficiency standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks aimed to lower greenhouse gases and improve the fuel efficiency of trucks by 20 percent. ArvinMeritor also realizes that these improvements must be made available through cost effective solutions to truck operators who are continually challenged with increasing costs throughout their business.

“We challenged our engineering and product teams to optimize our core products – individually and collectively -- to provide our truck operators of all sizes an efficiency edge in the workplace – where they make their living every day,” said Joe Plomin, VP Truck, Americas, ArvinMeritor.

The company has already focused its product development efforts on cost effective; fuel efficient, weight saving, and productivity increasing products, according to Plomin, to help meet the objectives of the new fuel efficiency standards. For example, six weeks ago at the IAA Commercial Vehicle show in Germany, ArvinMeritor unveiled axle technology, the“LogixDrive,” developed to reduce lubricant churning and parasitic losses. It is expected to be available in late 2012.

Randall Scheps, chairman of the Aluminum Association’s Aluminum Transportation Group, also issued a statement of support for the new standards: “To meet the tough new fuel economy and emissions regulations being proposed today, next generation commercial vehicles will need to be lighter, cleaner and more fuel efficient – and aluminum delivers on all fronts,”Scheps wrote. “If newly built Class 8 truck and trailers were down weighted by using even more aluminum, it could save 3,300 pounds for each unit, in turn saving one billion gallons of diesel fuel and 10 million tons of carbon annually across the fleet.

“It’s simple physics and basic economics,” he continued. “Heavier vehicles need more fuel to operate and suffer from reduced payload capacity, both of which waste money. That’s why the average Class 8 truck today already uses more than 1,000 pounds of aluminum in the form of forged wheels, trailer structure, cabs, fuel tanks and other critical components. Aluminum use is expected to continue rising in the future.”

Truck manufacturer Navistar was also generally positive, albeit cautiously concerning the proposed standards, pledging to work with the EPA and NHTSA to meet the goals: “…Navistar has been actively engaged in providing solutions for improved fuel efficiency and reduced greenhouse gas emissions,” said Daniel C. Ustian, Navistar chairman, president and CEO. “While it’s too soon to evaluate all elements of the proposed regulations, we are committed to engaging with the EPA and DOT on this issue. We look forward to working together with government and industry leaders in the months ahead to implement changes that will benefit the customers and communities we serve with cleaner, more fuel efficient commercial vehicles.”

Navistar noted that the company will work closely with the EPA and DOT to ensure this program expands the use of existing technologies to reduce CO2 emissions, improves overall fuel efficiency, and properly incentivizes the early introduction of advanced technologies.

Kyle Treadway, chairman of the American Truck Dealers (ATD) and owner of Kenworth Sales Company in Salt Lake City, UT offered his organization’s general endorsement of the proposed standards, but also sounded another cautionary note: “Dealers support improving fuel economy for medium- and heavy-duty trucks,” he said. “However, today’s fuel-economy proposal for model years 2014-18 is expected to add thousands of dollars to the cost per truck. We are concerned that this could price some buyers out of the market.

“To its credit, the Administration clearly is attempting to tailor its mandates to specific vehicle subclasses and to each manufacturer’s unique production. Compliance flexibility will be essential to the national truck fuel efficiency program’s success and its ability to prevent an unworkable patchwork of state-by-state mandates,” Treadway noted.

“These first-ever truck rules will govern how new medium- and heavy-duty trucks are built for sale. If technologically feasible and economically practical, they should result in vehicles that commercial fleets, owner/operators and small businesses will want to buy, at prices they can afford,” he added. “If not, truck dealers, their employees and the economy in general will suffer without environmental and national security benefits being achieved.”

In one of the few negative responses, Natural Gas Vehicles for America (NGVAmerica) voiced the organization’s disappointment in the exclusion of natural gas from the proposed fuel economy standard. “Domestically produced natural gas, which already fuels fleets across the country, has been left out of the government’s proposed rule to reduce emissions and improve fuel efficiency in medium and heavy duty vehicles, in spite of the fact that natural gas is the cleanest burning alternative transportation fuel commercially available today,” NGVAmerica wrote in their published statement.

“The Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Transportation today released a 660-page proposed rulemaking that establishes targets for reducing the emissions and increasing the fuel economy beginning with the 2014 model year for three categories of trucks: combination tractors, heavy-duty pickups and vocational vehicles,” the organization noted. “The rule includes regulatory incentives for electric, hybrid and fuel cell vehicles, but not for natural gas vehicles.”

“It is unfortunate and disappointing that this Administration has not included incentives for natural gas-powered trucks,” said Richard Kolodziej, president of NGVAmerica. “The rules are designed to address the urgent and closely intertwined challenges of dependence on oil, energy security and global climate changes, and natural gas vehicles do just that and more.”

A separate bill is expected to be considered by Congress next month that would specifically support natural gas as a vehicle fuel, according to the group.