US government releases latest truck fuel efficiency and emissions standards

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The US government has announced the latest fuel efficiency standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks, which cover the period through to the end of 2027 and aim to cut vehicle emissions, reduce oil consumption, and improve air quality.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have jointly finalized standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles that will improve fuel efficiency and cut carbon pollution, while bolstering energy security and spurring manufacturing innovation. The final phase two standards were called for by President Barack Obama’s Climate Action Plan, and respond to his directive in early 2014 to develop new standards that run into the next decade. The final phase two program promotes a new generation of cleaner, more fuel efficient trucks by encouraging the wider application of currently available technologies and the development of new and advanced cost-effective technologies through model year 2027.

The final standards are expected to lower CO? emissions by approximately 1.1 billion metric tons, save vehicle owners fuel costs of about US$170bn, and reduce oil consumption by up to two billion barrels, over the lifetime of the vehicles sold under the program. Overall, the program will provide US$230bn in net benefits, including improvements to climate and public health, which outweigh costs by a ratio of about 8:1. The final standards are cost effective for consumers and businesses, delivering favorable payback periods for truck owners, with the buyer of a new long-haul truck in 2027 recouping the investment in fuel-efficient technology in less than two years through fuel savings.

The trucking industry moves about 70% of all freight in the USA, and is also the second largest segment of the country’s transportation system in terms of emissions and energy use. Large trucks currently account for about 20% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and oil use in the USA’s transportation sector. Globally, GHG emissions from heavy-duty vehicles are growing rapidly, and are expected to surpass emissions from passenger vehicles by 2030. The vehicle and engine performance standards would cover model years 2021-2027, and apply to semi-trucks, large pickup trucks and vans, and all types and sizes of buses and work trucks. When the standards are fully phased in, tractors will achieve up to 25% lower CO? emissions and fuel consumption than an equivalent truck in 2018.

The agencies are also finalizing fuel efficiency and GHG standards for trailers for the first time. Cost effective technologies for trailers, including aerodynamic devices, lightweight 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.

“This ambitious but achievable announcement is a huge win for the American people, giving us cleaner air, more money saved at the pump, and real benefits for consumers across the supply chain,” said US Transportation Secretary, Anthony Foxx. “This action preserves flexibility for manufacturers to deliver on these objectives through a range of innovations and technology pathways.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since he joined the company in May 2014. Prior to this he worked on some of the UK's leading consumer magazine titles including Men's Health and Glamour, beginning his career in journalism in 1997 after graduating with a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).

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