Truck fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas proposal advances

By David Tanner, Land Line senior editor | 3/31/2015

A proposed rule that would ramp up fuel economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions for medium- and heavy-duty trucks beyond model year 2018 has advanced to the White House Office and Management and Budget.

While the advancement is just one of the steps a regulatory action must take before becoming an actual rule, the movement does inch the proposal closer to becoming reality. For truckers, the emission and fuel economy regulations promise to add thousands to the cost of new equipment.

The proposed rule on the move is known as Fuel Efficiency Standards for Medium- and Heavy-Duty Vehicles and Work Trucks, Phase 2, proposed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, and the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA.

It is known as Phase 2 because Phase 1 is already a final rule in effect. Phase 1, which became a final rule in 2011, was the first ever rule governing truck fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions. It requires truck manufacturers to make a 20 percent improvement to both fuel economy and emissions for new trucks during model years 2014-2018.

Phase 2 would go beyond model year 2018 and focus on more than just the tractor. Phase 2 also brings trailers and low-rolling-resistance tires into the mix.

As with the first phase, OOIDA is concerned not just about regulations that increase the cost of new trucking equipment, but also about the reliability of new and unproven components.

“The biggest concerns we have with this are twofold,” OOIDA Director of Regulatory Affairs Scott Grenerth said. “The cost of the truck, and reliability of the truck – that’s the bottom line. If it wasn’t for that, if it was just about what you pick and choose from to make your truck more efficient, that’s one thing. But we’re fearful of the downtime for the owner in addition to the cost of the truck.”

OOIDA plans to meet with the Office of Management and Budget in the next couple of months to go over the proposal.

Additional concerns involve spec’ing vehicles for specialized hauls.

OOIDA Director of Legislative Affairs Ryan Bowley says fuel economy is on every trucker’s mind, but a flatbed heavy-haul operator has different needs from a dry van operator who runs a consistent lane.

“We’ve been very consistent with EPA and NHTSA in terms of communicating with them on this rulemaking – that they need to take into consideration not just what the truck looks like, but how it is used,” Bowley said.

“Something that looks great on paper and may apply to a truck moving down the interstate every day is not going to have positive implications for all the other truck uses out there, such as someone running in the mountains, in construction sites or in other conditions.”

The federal notice that explains the advancement of the proposal to the Office of Management and Budget also states that the cost-benefit analysis for the proposed rule has “not yet been quantified.”

Grenerth points out that if they really wanted to look at fuel economy, the agencies should also take the role of the truck driver into account.

“If they wanted to show more cost-benefit, they would be working with the FMCSA on the entry-level driver training initiative. You train the drivers well, and they burn less fuel,” he said.

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