WASHINGTON, DC, June 20, 2015 (ENS) – The Obama Administration is proposing standards for heavy and medium-duty trucks and buses that are expected to improve fuel efficiency by one-third and cut carbon emissions to fight climate change, while fortifying U.S. energy security and inspiring innovative technologies.

The standards proposed Friday by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, NHTSA, 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.

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New heavy-duty trucks on their way to customers (Photo by Don O’Brien)

“Once upon a time, to be pro-environment you had to be anti-big-vehicles. This rule will change that,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “In fact, these efficiency standards are good for the environment – and the economy. When trucks use less fuel, shipping costs go down. It’s good news all around, especially for anyone with an online shopping habit.”

The product of three years of extensive testing and research, the proposed vehicle and engine performance standards are expected to lower carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by roughly one billion metric tons.

They are projected to cut fuel costs by a total of about US$170 billion, and reduce oil consumption by up to 1.8 billion barrels over the lifetime of the vehicles sold under the seven year program.

These reductions are nearly equal to the greenhouse gas 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 the Petroleum Exporting Countries, OPEC, each year.

The proposed standards are cost effective for consumers and businesses, delivering short payback periods for truck owners. The buyer of a new long-haul truck in 2027 would recoup the investment in fuel-efficient technology in less than two years through fuel savings.

“We’re delivering big time on President Obama’s call to cut carbon pollution,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “With emission reductions weighing in at one billion tons, this proposal will save consumers, businesses and truck owners money; and at the same time spur technology innovation and job growth, while protecting Americans’ health and our environment over the long haul.”

Officials say come current technologies that would help meet the new standards include improved transmissions, engine combustion optimization, aerodynamic improvements and low rolling resistance tires.

The proposed standards are designed to be flexible, allowing banking and trading emissions credits for most manufacturers, and providing the opportunity for businesses to choose the most cost-effective path to meeting the standards.

Air pollution control agencies welcome the proposal, says Bill Becker, executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, NACAA, which represents air agencies in 41 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. territories and 116 localities. “These reductions will benefit, literally, every community across the nation,” he said.

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Heavy-duty trucks approach Los Angeles, California (Photo by Beatrice Murch)

“Its benefits are substantial, outweighing costs 10 to one. The rule will reduce GHG emissions by one billion tons and could yield deep cuts in other air pollutants, such as smog-forming emissions, fine particles and air toxics, all of which cause serious health problems and premature death,” said Becker.

“The beauty of the proposal is that the cost of the necessary improvements, which are generally off-the-shelf technologies, will be paid for by the savings associated with the increased fuel efficiency – about one-third better than today – in a matter of a couple of years,” he said.

Bob Perciasepe, now president of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, served as EPA deputy administrator from 2010-2014. He said, “Transportation is second only to electricity as a source of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. That’s why it’s important to keep improving the fuel economy and reducing the harmful emissions of America’s cars and trucks.”

Trucking industry leaders offered support for this second round of greenhouse gas and fuel efficiency rules for commercial trucks, but expressed concern that the requirements may result in the use of certain technologies on vehicles before they can be fully tested.

ATA Vice President and Energy and Environmental Counsel Glen Kedzie said, “We believe this rule could result in the deployment of certain technologies that do not fully recognize the diversity of our industry and could prove to be unreliable. This unreliability could slow not only adoption of these technologies, but the environmental benefits they aim to create.”

“To prevent this, truck and engine manufacturers will need adequate time to develop solutions to meet these new standards,” he said.

The new proposal builds on fuel efficiency and emissions standards already in place for model years 2014-2018, which will result in emissions reductions of 270 million metric tons and save vehicle owners more than $50 billion in fuel costs.

These standards have been successful, says the EPA, pointing to higher truck sales in model years 2014 and 2015 due in part to improved fuel efficiency.

For the first time, the agencies are proposing efficiency and carbon emissions standards for trailers, not including mobile homes. The EPA trailer standards would begin to take effect in model year 2018 for some trailers, while NHTSA’s standards would be in effect as of 2021, with credits available for voluntary participation before then.

Technologies for trailers, such as aerodynamic devices, lightweight construction and self-inflating tires, can reduce total fuel consumption by tractor-trailers, while allowing owners to recover their costs in less than two years through fuel savings, the agencies estimate.

Medium-duty and heavy-duty vehicles now account for about 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions and oil use in the U.S. transportation sector, although they only account for about five percent of vehicles on the road.

Globally, oil consumption and greenhouse gas emissions from heavy duty vehicles are expected to surpass those 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 to improve global energy and climate security by reducing reliance on oil.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2015. All rights reserved.