February 18, 2014

President Commits to Reducing Oil Use of Heavy Trucks

Statement by Michelle Robinson, Union of Concerned Scientists’ Clean Vehicles Program

WASHINGTON (February 18, 2014) – President Obama reaffirmed his commitment to reducing the nation’s oil use today with the announcement that his administration will propose and finalize a new round of fuel efficiency and global warming pollution standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles before he leaves office.

Highlighting the economic and environmental benefits they would bring, President Obama said the new standards will cover medium- and heavy-duty vehicles like school buses and long-haul tractor trailers. These vehicles collectively make up 7 percent of traffic on American roads but account for over 25 percent of the fuel used to travel them. The new round of standards was part of a suite of proposals the president included as part of his Climate Action Plan last year, as well as an essential part of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ (UCS) Half the Oil plan.

The announcement of the new standards, with a proposal set for release in March 2015, comes just two years after the Obama administration finalized the first-ever global warming pollution and fuel-efficiency standards for new medium- and heavy-duty trucks. When fully implemented, those standards—which cover trucks sold between 2014 and 2018—will: 

  • Reduce annual oil consumption by 390,000 barrels per day in 2030, roughly equivalent to the amount of oil we import each year from Iraq
  • Cut carbon dioxide equivalent pollution by 270 million metric tons—equal to the emissions from more than 4 million of today’s passenger cars and trucks over their lifetimes
  • Save individual truck drivers up to $73,000 in fuel costs over the life of a tractor, and
  • Lead to a net increase of 40,000 jobs economy-wide in 2020 and nearly 80,000 jobs in 2030, according to an analysis commissioned by UCS.

Research by UCS shows that the new round of standards could take advantage of even greater oil savings and emissions reductions by considering fuel saving technologies across all areas of the vehicle. For example, the current standards apply only to the tractor truck but not the trailer it is pulling. Trailer improvements in addition to tractor improvements could reduce fuel consumption from combination trucks by as much as 35 percent with technologies available by 2017 compared with 23 percent required by the current standards. Looking even further into the future with technologies expected to be available in the next decade, new combination trucks could nearly halve their fuel consumption compared to 2010 levels.

Below is a statement from Michelle Robinson, director of UCS’s Clean Vehicles Program:

“The president’s announcement today highlights how important it is to reign in the oil consumption of the trucks that transport our food and other household goods across the country. Virtually every item in our daily lives was once transported on a truck, and these standards will ensure that these vehicles are an important part of our country’s oil saving efforts."

“According to the analysis in our Half the Oil plan, improving the fuel efficiency of all types of heavy-duty trucks could reduce oil consumption by 1 million barrels a day in 2035, more than the maximum capacity of the Keystone XL pipeline. Taking advantage of these potential oil savings—and the economic benefits and jobs that come will them—will require the new round of standards to look at a suite of technologies available today and in the years to come.

“The EPA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, working with the California Air Resources Board, should build upon the successful stakeholder engagement from the first round of standards to continue significant and measurable reductions in global warming emissions and oil consumption from medium- and heavy-duty trucks.”

The Union of Concerned Scientists puts rigorous, independent science to work to solve our planet's most pressing problems. Joining with citizens across the country, we combine technical analysis and effective advocacy to create innovative, practical solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.