Sustainable America Blog

New Efficiency Standards Ordered for Heavy-Duty Trucks

Photo Credit: static bob via Compfight cc

President Barak Obama announced this week that his administration will set higher fuel-efficiency standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks by March 2016. These vehicles include buses, garbage trucks, large pickups and vans, delivery trucks and tractor trailers. The EPA and the Transportation Department will work closely with truck manufacturers to draft the standards by March of 2015, for implementation by March of 2016. In his speech Tuesday, Obama emphasized that while heavy-duty trucks represent only 4 percent of all vehicles on United States highways, they are responsible for 20 percent of the carbon pollution produced by the transportation sector and haul about 70 percent of all domestic freight.

“Improving gas mileage for these trucks is going to drive down our oil imports even further,” Obama said from the truck bay of a Safeway distribution center in Maryland. “That reduces carbon pollution even more, cuts down on businesses’ fuel costs, which should pay off in lower prices for consumers.”

It’s no coincidence that the announcement was made from a Safeway truck bay. Safeway is a longtime participant in the EPA SmartWay Transport Program, a program that creates incentives to improve supply chain fuel efficiency. In addition, the company employs load planning strategies and uses alternative fuels for its trucking fleets. This includes biofuel derived from in-house used cooking oil, and pilot programs testing powering truck with liquefied natural gas and dimethyl ether (DME) produced from biomass.

In his remarks, Obama tied fuel efficiency standards to the economy. “For decades the fuel efficiency standards of our cars and trucks was stuck in neutral, even as other kinds of technology leapt forward. And that left families, businesses and our economy vulnerable to fluctuations in oil prices. Every time oil prices shot up the economy got hurt.” By this theory, increasing fuel economy across the board makes the country less dependent on foreign oil, and therefore more economically stable. Obama also noted that for the first time in 20 years the U.S. produces more oil than we buy from other countries.

The new medium- and heavy-duty truck standards come on top of rules issued by the EPA in August requiring automakers to double average fuel efficiency for passenger cars and trucks to 50.4 miles per gallon by 2025, which the administration says will cut carbon pollution from vehicles in half.

The National Clean Fleets Partnership, a coalition of companies that rely on shipping, support the president’s action and have joined together to decrease their use of petroleum. Obama noted in his address, “If rivals like PepsiCo and Coca-Cola or UPS and FedEx or AT&T and Verizon, if they can join together on this, then maybe Democrats and Republicans can do the same.”

Sustainable America believes that the economy and our nation as a whole are made stronger by minimizing our dependence on foreign oil. Higher fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks are one way to aid our goal of reducing U.S. oil consumption by 50% by 2035. Seventy percent of the oil consumed in this country is used for ground transportation, so anti-idling solutions and alternative fuels are other important aspects of increasing our fuel efficiency and conservation. Super-efficient large trucks can make a substantial impact on our national consumption of oil, and we couldn’t be happier to see more recognition of this fact.

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By the Numbers

Currently 50 million households suffer from food insecurity, meaning that family members cannot always meet their basic food needs.

10 million people a year could be fed through the recovery of just one-fifth of food waste.

Only 2% of food waste is composted or otherwise recycled—62% of paper is recycled.

Consumers throw out about 40% of the fresh and frozen fish they buy.

The U.S. produced 208 pounds of meat per person in 2009—60% more than Europe.

Low income commuters spend a much higher proportion of their wages on gas—8.6% versus 2.1% at $4 per gallon.

Food prices rose 35-40 percentage points between 2002–2008.

Americans consume 25% of the world’s produced oil, but our nation holds less than 3% of the world’s proven oil reserves.

The International Energy Agency says greenhouse gas emissions rose 3.2% last year, with a 9.3% increase in China offsetting declines in the US and EU.


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