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New Rules to Make Heavy Trucks Cleaner and More Fuel Efficient

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Transportation jointly issued final standards on Aug. 16 to reduce emissions and improve fuel economy for heavy duty trucks which currently average about six miles per gallon.
August 20, 2016, 9am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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"The Obama administration on [Aug. 16] issued aggressive new emissions standards for heavy-duty trucks," reports Bill Vlasic for The New York Times. "The rules are expected to achieve better fuel efficiency and a bigger cut in pollution than the version that was first proposed last year." 

Officials said the new standards would require up to a 25 percent reduction in carbon emissions for big tractor-trailers over the next 10 years, and somewhat smaller improvements for delivery trucks, school buses and other large vehicles.

As with regulations on emission standards for passenger vehicles (which include light trucks), the rules are jointly issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Transportation, specifically through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. EPA regulates greenhouse gas emissions while NHTSA regulates fuel efficiency, using the term Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy "said the standards were 'ambitious but achievable,' and were decided after hundreds of meetings in the last year with groups representing truck manufacturers, fleet owners and environmental organizations," adds Vlasic. But they will add to the costs of new trucks, though they achieve cost savings too.

Analysts have estimated the cost of complying with the new standards at $12,000 a vehicle. [Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx] said those investments would be outweighed by larger economic gains such as reduced fuel consumption.

[He] said the trucking industry would save an estimated $170 billion in fuel costs through 2027 and reduce petroleum consumption by two billion barrels over the lifetime of the vehicles sold under the new rules.

The new standards are welcome news for environmentalists. Transportation supplanted power plants last February as the largest source of carbon emissions in the U.S. economy. "Within the transportation sector, heavy-duty vehicles are the fastest-growing contributors to [greenhouse gas] emissions," according to an EPA-NHTSA fact sheet [PDF] on the new standards. 

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Published on Tuesday, August 16, 2016 in New York Times
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