Obama orders heavy-truck fuel economy standards

President Obama has signed a presidential memorandum directing the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to jointly issue the nation’s first fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards on new medium- and heavy-duty trucks, beginning with model year 2014.

The announcement came at a White House signing ceremony on today, May 21, that involved the senior executives of the major truck and engine manufacturers.

In announcing the directive, Obama said the fuel economy of commercial trucks could increase as much as 25 percent using technologies in place today. The announcement comes exactly one year after the Administration announced an agreement to increase fuel efficiency for cars and light trucks. In his comments, Obama said that medium- and heavy-duty vehicles account for about one-fifth of all greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2007, Congress directed DOT to issue fuel economy standards on medium- and heavy-duty trucks following a study. The National Research Council issues that report almost two months ago. Under the 2007 law, the standards were to come by the middle of this decade, which the presidential memorandum would accomplish.

As with the automobile standards announced earlier, the Obama administration has expanded the scope of the regulations to include not only fuel efficiency but greenhouse gas emissions, which is why EPA and NHTSA issued the new car and light-truck standards jointly earlier this year.

While fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions are linked closely, there are automotive functions – such as gases used in air conditioning – that affect greenhouse gases without necessarily affecting fuel economy.

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