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New Truck Fuel-Saving Rules Spark Debate

Posted: August 1, 2014

WASHINGTON, DC — The trucking industry is buzzing with talk of yesterday’s announcement, made by U.S. President Barack Obama, of the next phase of truck fuel efficiency standards.

And not everyone sees eye to eye.

The president’s Tuesday announcement called for the next round of rules, covering vehicles beyond model year 2018. It made new cuts to fuel use and greenhouse gases (GHG), to be completed by March 2016. 

In 2012 under Phase I efforts, fuel efficiency gains and truck emission reductions of 20 percent were achieved which exceeded the original goal of a 15 percent reduction for each by 2020.

But how’s the industry taking it?

Power management company Eaton gives it the green light. Today, it announced its support of new deadlines on national fuel economy and greenhouse gas emission standards for medium and heavy-duty vehicles, including 18-wheelers, sanitation trucks, buses, and other large vehicles, as it works to inform regulators as they develop national fuel-saving rules.

“Today’s technology is accelerating at an unprecedented pace, making the opportunity to deliver substantial reductions in greenhouse gas and fuel consumption a truly achievable objective,” said Ken Davis, president, Eaton Vehicle Group.

“These goals and the ultimate outcomes from Phase II can be accomplished without compromising vehicle performance or inhibiting the choices the market or fleet customers have, given the wide array of current and future technologies available today and tomorrow. As a power management company, Eaton looks forward to continuing to work closely with the U.S. regulatory agencies to develop a successful Phase II program.”

Davis added that some of the features that helped streamline compliance with Phase I regulations – such as a single national standard, regulatory certainty over time, and building on existing testing and certification protocols – should be continued in Phase II to assure its acceptance and implementation.

What’s more, the newly announced rules might also cover the trailer element of tractor trailers, setting standards to further reduce GHG.

The EPA estimates Phase I will result in a net savings of $42 billion in fuel costs, even when the costs of compliance and new technologies are taken into account.

Ah, but that’s where the objections come in. Will it really save truckers money, or will it cost them more?

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) warns the plan could put the cost of new medium and heavy-duty trucks out of reach for many truckers, according to truckinginfo. 

OOIDA claims EPA’s own numbers show earlier introduced 2014-2018 standards will add about $6,200 to the price of a new truck. The administration has not yet released how much the second round will increase the cost of those trucks.

 “Shock and awe may be the best way to describe what’s happening to the vast majority in trucking with these proposed regulations,” said Todd Spencer, OOIDA executive vice president. “Each year for the past 10, more and more truckers are squeezed out of the option to buy new equipment because of ever increasing prices due to government requirements that are long on promises but way short on performance.”

OOIDA says the proposal completely overlooks the driving habits of trained professional commercial motor vehicle operators who strive for fuel economy.

“Multiple studies have shown the biggest variable in fuel economy is always the driver, accounting for as much as 30 percent of fuel consumption, yet they aren’t trained to maximize fuel economy,” Spencer said.

Short haul vs. long haul

The business consultancy and research firm Frost & Sullivan says the new fuel efficiency standards will be a “pain” in the short-term for the trucking industry, but that in the long-run, they will give the American trucking industry a leg up in the global market and reduce total cost of ownership for fleets.

“The President’s decision to elevate fuel efficiency standards for medium and heavy-duty trucks is definitely a strategic move,” said Sandeep Kar, automotive and transportation global research director. “Trucks featuring better fuel-efficiency and economy will cost higher than the current breed of trucks, but will deliver reduced fuel expenses for fleets thereby reducing life-cycle costs and hence total cost of ownership, while simultaneously reducing freight transportation’s carbon footprint.”

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