#ActOnTrucks: Cutting Truck Fuel Consumption 40% by 2025

, , senior vehicles analyst | May 5, 2014, 1:31 pm EST
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As part of his climate action plan, the President called for strengthening fuel economy and global warming emissions standards for the biggest trucks on the road. A worthy goal — but what does it mean in terms of real reductions in global warming emissions and oil consumption? And how do we get there?

Over the last several months, in collaboration with other NGOs, we have been working hard to crunch the numbers to determine just how far we can go, and what it would take to get there. Over the next few months, we will be releasing more detailed analysis outlining the path forward for these new standards. Today, however, we can at least share the good news: Standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks can cut the average fuel consumption of new trucks by 40% in 2025, as compared to 2010.

New truck standards can save 1.4 million barrels of oil each day
Acting on trucks can provide tremendous benefits

What does reducing truck fuel consumption by 40% do? It means that by 2030, we will save 1.4 million barrels of oil every day. That is enough oil to fuel over 21 million trips around the earth! It will also keep nearly 270 million metric tons of global warming emissions out of the atmosphere every year. And for the average long-haul truck driver, these new standards would save him or her $30,000 in fuel annually.

We have the technology to reduce fuel from trucks
We have the technology to build it

There are a plethora of technologies out there, both on the road and in the lab, that can help us get to a cleaner trucking future. I’ve already talked about some of the aerodynamic devices being put on trailers today, but improvements to reduce the weight and rolling resistance of trailers helps reduce the amount of fuel needed to pull freight to where it needs to go.

Improvements in transmissions to reduce friction and keep the engine operating at its most efficient point can improve the fuel consumption of all trucks, not just big rigs. And we are likely to see continued improvements to the engine, including capturing heat from the engine that would normally be wasted as exhaust and instead using that energy to actually improve the power output of the engine. Electric and hybrid-electric trucks could also play a role in reducing oil usage and global warming emissions.

We can reduce fuel usage from all trucks, including tractor-trailers, which consume 2/3 of oil used by heavy duty vehicles
Now we need to get there

Our analysis shows that these standards can cut fuel consumption from tractor-trailers nearly in half, and we can reduce fuel use by other trucks on the road including delivery vans and heavy-duty pick-ups by about 30%. In the coming months, policy makers will be working to set the next round of fuel efficiency and global warming emissions standards for heavy-duty trucks. But to get these standards finalized, we need your help.

Share this infographic with your friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers to let everyone know what is possible. We’re getting the word out early in this discussion that heavy-duty vehicles can continue to deliver the goods we need with much less oil—will you help us build support by sharing this new analysis?

Share on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ to #ActOnTrucks today!

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  • Dave Lewis

    I’ve wondered, since trucks are usually outside, if solar energy could feasibly incorporated to provide some power for electrical functions on trucks. Certainly they could enhance performance of hybrids, but I don’t have the expertise to scientifically analyse the costs or contribution to carbon fuel operation.

    Thank you, too, for mentioning rail transportation. Please allow me to add transportation via inland waterways to the list of fuel saving modes that could still use conservation enhancements – perhaps by re-engineering hull shapes or providing for more efficient container transport.

  • ted rees

    While reducing truck emissions by 30%-40% by 2025 (11 more years) seems like a reasonable goal, it looks like hogwash to me.
    The definition of the reduction is not specified. Does it mean that new trucks sold will be 30-40% more efficient in 2025? Or, does it mean that all trucks on the road will be 30-40% more efficient on average? There is a big difference. If it means the average truck on the road will be 30-40% more efficient, that is great. It means that the improved trucks will be sold in mass, very soon, and those trucks will be improved much more than 40%. … I doubt that is the intent.
    Rather, I suspect it is saying that the average truck sold in 2025 will be 30%-40% more efficient. This is a very weak goal For instance, why wouldn’t all short haul trucks sold be plug-in electric by then?
    For long haul freight, we should be thinking about electrified rail, not trucks.

    • As I noted in the post, we can cut the fuel consumption of new trucks by 40% in 2025. This second round of standards builds on the first-ever fuel economy and greenhouse gas emission standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks already in effect for 2014-2018. We think this next round of standards can help get some of the cutting edge technologies out of the prototype phase and into mass production, but unfortunately that doesn’t happen overnight. Technologies sold today in most cases were planned around five years ago—what these rules can do, however, is provide the certainty necessary to make sure that manufacturers are investing in the development and production of the technologies necessary to improve the efficiency of our commercial fleet. And while it takes more than a decade for the fleet to turnover, each year there are more and more fuel efficient options available for truckers to purchase.

      As for rail, while mode-shifting does play a role in our Half the Oil plan, long-haul trucking will be a major component of freight movement for years to come, and ensuring that these vehicles are as efficient as possible is what these standards can do.

  • Richard

    Thanks for the summary with the useful graphics. I look forward to reading more about this. And to learning how I can influence the DOE, DOT, and other federal and state agencies to continue to push things in this direction.

    Seems to me that trucks with hybrid and other alternative engines should be strongly encouraged via tax incentives, etc.

    • Thanks for your support. We will continue to look at what technologies are best for the right application, including hybridization, in order to ensure the maximum feasible global warming emissions reductions. The next round of standards could be set to encourage the production of hybrid-electric trucks for appropriate applications, such as delivery trucks and other vocational vehicles that endure lots of stop-and-go operation.

      • Richard

        I look forward to reading more about the next set of standards which will be proposed in Congress, etc.

        I hope UCS will encourage its members to contact their Rep in the House, their Senators, and various agencies like the DOT or DOE/EPA in DC at times to try to move these issues in the most appropriate direction. I have been and still am ready to send emails when these are suggested by UCS. I hope other members will as well.