New emissions rule to drive truck prices higher

Updated Aug 10, 2011

The first-ever regulation for truck fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, announced Aug. 9, is expected to cut diesel use by 4 gallons per 100 miles traveled by the time 2018 models are sold. New trucks are expected to cost $6,220 more because of the rule.

President Obama announced the new standard would yield a total fuel savings of $73,000 over a truck’s life. Heavy-duty trucks should expect a 20 percent reduction in fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by model year 2018 under a new Heavy-Duty National Program.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association criticized the development, saying there are cheaper ways to achieve the same goals. But many organizations applauded the move.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration describes the agencies’ standards for 2017 models in nine sub-categories of combination tractors based on weight, cab type and roof height. Class 7 and 8 daycabs and Class 8 sleepers should show fuel savings of between 9 percent and 23 percent more than 2010 standards.

A Class 8 sleeper with a low, medium or high roof would have a respective fuel consumption standard of 6.3, 6.8 or 7 gallons per 1,000 ton-mile.

The Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation signed the 958-page rule Aug. 9. It will become effective 60 days from publication in the Federal Register.

The EPA’s final greenhouse gas emission standards under the Clean Air Act will begin with the 2014 model year. NHTSA’s final fuel consumption standards under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 will be voluntary in model years 2014 and 2015, but mandatory for most categories beginning model year 2016.

Trailers are not covered under these rules because of the program’s newness and agencies’ limited experience working with industry in this compliance area. Trailers are expected to be included in a future rules.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association said the new standard had “ignored input from small-business trucking (and) overlooks less expensive options to achieve” reduced emissions and will result in higher truck costs.

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The priority should have been driver training, citing a National Academy of Sciences report that driver behavior can account for 35 percent of fuel economy, said Joe Rajkovacz, OOIDA director of regulatory affairs. “This rulemaking basically takes EPA’s SmartWay program and mandates participation – regardless of whether certain technologies are appropriate for a particular operation,” Rajkovacz said.

The association alleged “large motor carriers use SmartWay participation in order to get compensation from shippers for appearing green.”

The American Trucking Associations said its members “have been pushing for the setting of fuel efficiency standards for some time.” In 2007, ATA endorsed a six-point program that included efficiency standards, a national speed limit of 65 mph for all vehicles, mandating electronic governors, incentives for idling reduction technology, continued support of SmartWay and federal truck size and weight-limit reforms.

Navistar, the Sierra Club and the Environmental Defense Fund issued statements supporting the announcement. Volvo Trucks and Mack Trucks issued generally supportive statements.

“Certainly the regulation will challenge the industry,” said Mack President and CEO Denny Slagle, “but our past success gives us confidence we’ll meet the challenge.  Our focus now is on doing so in a way that minimizes any negative consequences for our customers.”