U.S. sets new fuel efficiency standards for trucks, buses and heavy-duty vehicles

Following the late July announcement of new fuel efficiency standards for cars, the U.S. sets new standards for oil consumption and greenhouse gas pollution by trucks and buses.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have developed new fuel efficiency standards for buses, trucks and heavy-duty vehicles that the Obama administration says could save American businesses $50 billion in fuel costs.

The administration says the standards were established in coordination with the companies that met with the president today as well as other stakeholders, following requests from companies to develop this program. The cost savings for American businesses are on top of the $1.7 trillion that American families will save at the pump from the historic fuel-efficiency standards announced by the Obama Administration for cars and light duty trucks, including the model year 2017-2025 agreement announced by the president last month.

Under the new national program, trucks and buses built in 2014 through 2018 will reduce oil consumption by a projected 530 million barrels and greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution by approximately 270 million metric tons. This program – which relies heavily on off-the-shelf technologies – was developed in coordination with truck and engine manufacturers, fleet owners, the State of California, environmental groups and other stakeholders.

The joint DOT/EPA program will include a range of targets that are specific to the diverse vehicle types and purposes. Vehicles are divided into three major categories: combination tractors (semi-trucks), heavy-duty pickup trucks and vans, and vocational vehicles (like transit buses and refuse trucks). Within each of those categories, even more specific targets are laid out based on the design and purpose of the vehicle. This flexible structure allows serious but achievable fuel efficiency improvement goals charted for each year and for each vehicle category and type.

The standards are expected to yield an estimated $50 billion in net benefits over the life of model year 2014 to 2018 vehicles, and to result in significant long-terms savings for vehicle owners and operators. A semi-truck operator could pay for the technology upgrades in under a year and realize net savings of $73,000 through reduced fuel costs over the truck’s useful life. These cost saving standards will also reduce emissions of harmful air pollutants like particulate matter, which can lead to asthma, heart attacks and premature death.

By the 2018 model year, the program is expected to achieve significant savings relative to current levels, across vehicle types. Certain combination tractors – commonly known as big-rigs or semi-trucks – will be required to achieve up to approximately 20 percent reduction in fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by model year 2018, saving up to 4 gallons of fuel for every 100 miles traveled.

For heavy-duty pickup trucks and vans, separate standards are required for gasoline-powered and diesel trucks. These vehicles will be required to achieve up to approximately 15 percent reduction in fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by model year 2018. Under the finalized standards a typical gasoline or diesel powered heavy-duty pickup truck or van could save one gallon of fuel for every 100 miles traveled.

Vocational vehicles – including delivery trucks, buses, and garbage trucks – will be required to reduce fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 10 percent by model year 2018. These trucks could save an average of 1 gallon of fuel for every 100 miles traveled.

In late July, President Obam announced an agreement with thirteen major automakers to pursue the next phase in the Administration’s national vehicle program, increasing fuel economy to 54.5 mpg for cars and light-duty trucks by model year 2025. The President was joined by Ford, GM, Chrysler, BMW, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar/Land Rover, Kia, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Toyota and Volvo – which together account for more than 90 percent of all vehicles sold in the United States – as well as the United Auto Workers (UAW), and the State of California, who were integral to developing this agreement.

Building on the Obama administration’s agreement for Model Years 2012-2016 vehicles, which will raise fuel efficiency to 35.5 mpg and begin saving families money at the pump this year, the next round of standards will require performance equivalent to 54.5 mpg or 163 g/mile of CO2 for cars and light-duty trucks by Model Year 2025.

These programs, combined with the model year 2011 light truck standard, represent the first meaningful update to fuel efficiency standards in three decades and span Model Years 2011 to 2025. Together, they reportedly will save American families $1.7 trillion dollars in fuel costs, and by 2025 result in an average fuel savings of more than $8,000 per vehicle. Additionally, these programs will cut the oil America consumes, saving a total of 12 billion barrels of oil, and by 2025 reduce oil consumption by 2.2 million barrels a day – as much as half of the oil the U.S. imports from OPEC every day.