The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has published a proposed rule to revamp federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for light trucks, including SUVs and minivans, which weigh less than 8,500 lbs. The rule will modestly improve fuel economy for customers, while phasing out a standard that encourages manufacturers to push lighter, more fuel-efficient small SUVs and pick-ups, the agency said.

The “reformed” CAFE calls for light trucks to be placed into six categories, based on size, not weight. Each category would have its own fuel economy target. The current CAFE averages fuel economy performance of the manufacturer’s entire truck fleet, which puts Ford and GM at a competitive disadvantage, because their lower-fuel economy vehicles are much more profitable.

The proposed rule allows manufacturers a transition period, between 2008 and 2010, during which they can choose to follow the old or the new system. By 2011, all manufacturers would be required to follow the reformed CAFE standards.

Regardless of whether a manufacturer follows the old or new system during the transition period, fuel economy for light trucks will improve overall, said NHTSA Administrator Jeffrey Runge.

The proposed “unreformed” CAFE standard calls for fuel economy of 22.5 miles per gallon (mpg) for model year (MY) 2008, 23.1 mpg for MY 2009, and 23.5 mpg for MY 2010. Like the CAFE rule currently in effect, these fuel economy ratings would be averaged over the manufacturer’s entire light truck fleet.

Under the proposed reformed CAFE Group 5 vehicles, vehicles such as Ford’s E-150 van would have a fuel economy of 20.7 mpg for MY 2008, 21.0 for MY 2009, 21.6 for MY 2010 and 21.9 for MY 2011. Group 6 vehicles, which include heavy pick-ups such as GM’s Chevy Silverado 1500, would have a fuel economy of 20.4 mpg for MY 2008, 21.0 for MY 2009, 20.8 mpg for MY 2010, and 21.3 mpg for MY 2011.

Light vocational vehicles the new rule would affect include:

Chevrolet:

  • Astro Cargo Van
  • Express 1500 Cargo Van
  • Avalanche 1500
  • Colorado
  • Silverado 1500

    Dodge:

  • Dakota
  • Ram 1500

    Ford:

  • F-150 Series
  • Ranger Super Cab Series
  • E-150 Series

    GMC:

  • Savana 2500
  • Safari Cargo Van
  • Canyon
  • Sierra 1500

    Mazda:

  • B-Series

    Nissan:

  • Titan

    Toyota:

  • Tundra

    Comments for the proposed rule must be received by Nov. 22 and may be submitted via the Dept. of Transportation electronic docket site: dms.dot.gov.