Obama directs agencies to propose new fuel economy standards for heavy-duty trucks

Article by Eugene Conan, on February 26, 2014

President Barrack Obama has directed the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Transportation to propose a second phase of stiffer fuel economy standards by March 2015 for heavy-duty vehicles.  The heavy-duty vehicle category covers three-quarter-ton pickups, large vans, tractor-trailers and garbage trucks.

Obama told the two agencies to finalize their proposals a year later, and to design them to be more stringent until "well into the next decade." "Improving gas mileage for these trucks is going to drive down our oil imports even further," Obama said. "That reduces carbon pollution even more, cuts down on businesses' fuel costs, which should pay off in lower prices for consumers."

The move is the Obama administration’s latest push for fuel savings. The administration has inked an agreement with California and the auto industry to double the fleet-wide fuel economy of cars and light trucks to an average of 54.5 mpg by the 2025 model year – leading to changes in the design of cars and light trucks.

It was also thought to be the main factor in Ford's gambit on aluminum for its next-generation F-150 pickup. The standards were joined in 2011 by the first fuel economy standards for heavy-duty trucks, which cover 2014 to 2018 model years.  Over that period, the EPA expects the fuel consumption of diesel heavy-duty pickups to drop 17 percent and for the fuel consumption of gasoline trucks to decline 12 percent.

Industry groups like the American Trucking Associations are urging the Obama administration to proceed with the next surge of standards with caution. "Fuel is one of our industry's largest expenses, so it makes sense that as an industry we would support proposals to use less of it," said Bill Graves, chief executive of the American Trucking Associations. He noted that new rules should not conflict with safety or other environmental regulations and they should not force specific types of technology onto the market “before they are fully tested and ready."

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