U.S. EPA, DOT propose greenhouse gas and fuel efficiency standards for heavy-duty trucks

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are jointly proposing standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles that would improve fuel efficiency and cut carbon pollution to reduce the impacts of climate change, while bolstering energy security and spurring manufacturing innovation.

The proposed standards are expected to lower CO2 emissions by approximately 1 billion metric tons, cut fuel costs by about USD 170 billion, and reduce oil consumption by up to 1.8 billion barrels over the lifetime of the vehicles sold under the program. These reductions are nearly equal to the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with energy use by all U.S. residences in one year. The total oil savings under the program would be greater than a year’s worth of U.S. imports from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), according to the EPA.

Medium- and heavy-duty vehicles currently account for about 20% of GHG emissions and oil use in the U.S. transportation sector, but only comprise about 5% of vehicles on the road. Globally, oil consumption and GHG emissions from heavy-duty vehicles are expected to surpass that of passenger vehicles by 2030. Through the G-20 and discussions with other countries, the United States is working with other major economies to encourage progress on fuel economy standards in other countries, which will improve global energy and climate security by reducing reliance on oil.

The product of three years of extensive testing and research, the proposed vehicle and engine performance standards would cover model years 2021-2027, and apply to semi-trucks, large pick-up trucks and vans, and all types and sizes of buses and work trucks. They would achieve up to 24% lower CO2 emissions and fuel consumption than an equivalent tractor in 2018, based on the fully phased-in standards for the tractor alone in a tractor-trailer vehicle.

Like the administration’s 2014-2018 fuel efficiency and GHG standards for heavy-duty trucks, the proposal includes separate engine standards that will promote continued progress on engine efficiency and allow for direct measurement of engine emissions.

The agencies are also proposing efficiency and GHG standards for trailers for the first time. The EPA trailer standards, which exclude certain categories such as mobile homes, would begin to take effect in model year 2018 for certain trailers, while NHTSA’s standards would be in effect as of 2021, with credits available for voluntary participation before then. Cost effective technologies for trailers – including aerodynamic devices, light weight construction and self-inflating tires – can significantly reduce total fuel consumption by tractor-trailers, while paying back the owners in less than two years due to the fuel saved.

The proposal also builds on standards that the administration has put in place for light-duty vehicles, which are projected to reduce carbon pollution by 6 billion tons over the lifetime of vehicles sold, double fuel economy by 2025, and save consumers USD 1.7 trillion at the pump.

The proposed standards are fully harmonized between NHTSA and EPA. The agencies have worked closely with the State of California’s Air Resources Board in developing the proposed standards.

A public comment period will be open for 60 days after the proposal is published in the Federal Register. In addition, NHTSA and EPA will host two public hearings and continue meetings with stakeholders over the course of the comment period.

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