U.S. President Barack Obama’s plan to improve fuel economy for heavy-duty trucks will probably aim to cut carbon-dioxide emissions by about 20 percent by 2018, said Glen Kedzie, vice president at the American Trucking Associations.
The standard will probably set a 6 percent engine-efficiency improvement target, said Kedzie, who is also environmental counsel at the Arlington, Virginia-based industry group and has been briefed by the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The efficiency goals should help trucks improve fuel use to 7 or 7 1/2 miles per gallon by 2018, he said.
“Over the last 20 to 25 years, we’ve been flatlining at 6 1/2 miles per gallon, and that’s not a good way to go,” Kedzie said in a telephone interview. “This is going to really help the industry overall. Everyone will move ahead and move on. We’ll get used to it.”
Obama is scheduled to announce the first U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions rules for trucks tomorrow in Springfield, Virginia. The administration said in a preliminary proposal in November that lower fuel costs would counter the added expense of new technology. Big rigs may cost $5,901 more, and use between $9,567 and $9,746 less in diesel fuel in the first year, according to the preliminary rule.
Matt Lehrich, a White House spokesman, didn’t immediately provide comment.
Industry executives, trade associations and environmental groups have been briefed by regulators in the weeks leading up to the announcement.
In addition to engine improvements, truck makers will be able to use changes such as lighter materials, tires with less friction, engine-idle reduction and better aerodynamics to reach the 20 percent goal, Kedzie said.
The standards for heavy-duty trucks, such as long-haul 18-wheelers and garbage trucks, will follow the administration’s announcement in July of fuel-economy rules for cars and light trucks that are to take fleetwide averages to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. For heavy-duty trucks, regulations focus on how much carbon individual truck parts emit, instead of the mileage standards used for cars.
The truck rules will rely primarily on technologies already in use rather than pushing the industry to invent new, breakthrough equipment, said Don Anair, senior vehicles analyst with the Union of Concerned Scientists in Berkeley, California.
“It’s a first round of standards,” Anair said. “There’s a lot of opportunity left to make bigger gains later.”
While the American Trucking Associations and the truck makers have supported the rules, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association says the new standards will make it harder for its small-business members to survive.
“The price of new trucks is spiraling out of control,” said Joe Rajkovacz, regulatory director at the Grain Valley, Missouri-based group. “You’re going to have a reverse incentive to keep older equipment a lot longer.”
The regulations will probably include incentives intended to bring advanced technologies like diesel-electric hybrid transmission systems made by Eaton Corp., fuel cells and heat-waste recovery systems to market more quickly, said Mihai Dorobantu, Cleveland-based Eaton’s senior manager of vehicle technologies and innovation.
Truck makers will probably receive 1.5 credits for every diesel-electric system used, Dorobantu said. Manufacturers can use the credits for hybrid equipment, which is often more expensive than traditional systems, instead of making other improvements. Proponents say this is a way to spur investments in areas that aren’t yet cost-effective.
Cummins Inc., the Columbus, Indiana-based engine maker that hopes the truck rules will spur demand for newer, more-efficient diesel engines, told regulators too many credits for hand-picked technologies would distort the market.
The agencies will address that concern by cutting off the credits after a certain target is reached, said Dorobantu of Eaton, which has worked with companies like FedEx Corp., United Parcel Service Inc. and Navistar International Corp. on hybrid-truck demonstration projects.