Proposed Truck Efficiency and Global Warming Standards Promise Big Savings from Big Rigs

Published Jun 18, 2015

WASHINGTON (June 19, 2015)—The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) today issued a proposal for fuel efficiency and global warming emissions standards for new heavy duty trucks beginning in model year 2021.  The proposed standards, which affect everything from school buses and delivery trucks to tractor-trailers, will go a long way towards cutting oil use, but could go even further, according to experts at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

“Setting new standards for trucks is a critical task,” said UCS President Ken Kimmell. “We’re glad to see EPA and NHTSA proposing a rule that will result in significant climate change emission reductions and reduced fuel consumption, saving truckers money at the pump.”

Trucks are vital to our economy, but they use 25 percent of the fuel despite making up only 7 percent of the vehicles on our roads, and their average fuel economy has hovered around just 6 mpg since the 1970s.

“Tough standards will make sure that truck manufacturers will have a strong incentive to innovate and put proven technologies to work,” said Kimmell. “We can and must cut oil use—and cleaner trucks have to be part of the solution. Almost everything Americans buy travels on a truck at some point, so we owe it to ourselves to make sure those trucks are as clean and efficient as possible.”

In March, UCS released a report, “Engines for Change,” showing major benefits for truckers and consumers if EPA and NHTSA set a target of cutting new truck fuel use by 40 percent compared to trucks sold in 2010. Shipping today’s goods with these more efficient trucks would save $30 billion in fuel costs, 90 million metric tons of CO2 emissions, and 9 billion gallons of diesel every year.

The agencies’ proposed standard would save nearly 2 billion gallons of fuel over the lifetime of the regulated vehicles but could still do more. UCS analysis showed new trucks in 2025 could cost-effectively deliver a 40% reduction in fuel use an emissions, compared to 2010. 

“The technology to cut heavy-duty truck fuel use 40 percent by 2025 is within reach,” said Dr. Dave Cooke, a vehicles analyst in the Clean Vehicles program at UCS and the author of the “Engines for Change” report. “Today’s proposed standards are a step in the right direction and would save the trucking industry billions of dollars in fuel, savings which can be passed down to consumers.  But we believe the rule could deliver even greater fuel savings and emissions reductions sooner.  Moving more quickly to fully deploy technologies now entering or already in the market could save an additional 100,000 barrels per day or more by 2040."