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White House Calls For Trucks That Do More With Less Oil

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I spent the morning surrounded by trucks and I wasn’t cruising down the highway. I had the honor of attending the White House announcement kicking off the next round of fuel efficiency and global warming pollution standards for medium and heavy duty trucks, covering vehicles from delivery trucks to school buses to long-haul big rigs.

We depend on these vehicles to take our kids to school, get the goods we order online, and collect our trash. But they also have a big impact when it comes to oil use: heavy-duty vehicles collectively make up 7 percent of traffic on American roads, but account for over 25 percent of the fuel used to travel them. Trucks may be relatively small in number, but large in impact, and there is more we can do to increase their efficiency and reduce the pollution they create.

Today as the President reaffirmed his commitment to cutting oil use and global warming pollution, he started the wheels in motion on a process that should culminate in proposed standards early next year. Setting strong efficiency standards for trucks is 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. In addition to new efficiency/emission standards, there are other initiatives the President announced today that include additional research dollars for new truck technology and fleet purchase incentives as the more efficient trucks roll out.

HDV announcement

UCS applauded today’s announcement and the President’s commitment to cleaning up our trucking fleet, but the real work is still to come in making this commitment a reality. We will be generating analysis on the potential benefits of the new standards as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation develop the standards over the coming months.

We know from policies already on the books that the potential benefits are considerable. The first ever fuel efficiency/emission standards for heavy duty trucks enacted just two years ago and covering trucks sold between 2014 and 2018—will, when fully implemented:

  • 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 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.

Our analysis shows that standards that go beyond 2018 could realize even greater oil savings and emissions reductions than the first round by considering the full vehicle (both tractor and trailer) and technologies coming online over the next decade. In addition, 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.

There is a lot of work to do to ensure that the new standards are as robust as they need to be. But with today’s announcement we are clearly “truckin” in the right direction.

Posted in: Vehicles

About the author: Michelle Robinson has more than 25 years of experience in public policy and advocacy. She joined the Clean Vehicles program in 1992 and is a nationally recognized expert on state and federal transportation policy. See Michelle's full bio.

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