Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Fuel Economy and Pollution in Freight Sector to be Tackled by New Truck Standards

Presidential Demands Being Faced by Industry
Shipping News Feature

US – In May 2010 President Obama instructed both the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to get their act together and jointly work towards ensuring the next generation of freight trucks were environmentally more acceptable. This prompted the EPA and the DoT to confirm they would cooperate to develop a programme to improve fuel efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in medium to heavy road haulage vehicles.

Now, 5 years later, the two agencies have proposed a ‘Phase 2 program’ which they say would significantly reduce carbon emissions and improve the fuel efficiency of heavy-duty vehicles, helping to address the challenges both of global climate change and energy security. The changes are predicted to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about one billion metric tonnes over the lifetime of the affected vehicles, cutting fuel consumption by an astonishing 75 billion gallons according to some estimates.

The American Trucking Associations (ATA) submitted a list of extremely detailed ‘over-arching principles’ to the DoT in February 2014, including that return on the investment in new fuel saving technology made economic sense for the road haulage operators being asked to shoulder the initial cost, and subsequently has been dwelling on the proposal. ATA Vice President Glen Kedzie commented:

“The ATA has adopted a set of 15 ‘guiding principles’ for Phase 2 and based on conversations with regulators and a preliminary review, this proposal appears to meet 14 of those. In 2014, trucking spent nearly $150 billion on diesel fuel alone, so the potential for real cost savings and associated environmental benefits of this rule are there, but fleets will need a wide variety of proven and durable technologies to meet these new standards throughout the various implementation stages.

“We believe this rule could result in the deployment of certain technologies that do not fully recognize the diversity of our industry and could prove to be unreliable. This unreliability could slow not only adoption of these technologies, but the environmental benefits they aim to create. To prevent this, truck and engine manufacturers will need adequate time to develop solutions to meet these new standards.”

Once again though the change in attitude to the consumption of fossil fuels is really down to the President. In 2014 he again spoke out on the subject and made it abundantly clear that the standards he had required industry to adopt were high on his agenda. The real driving force behind these changes, besides a commitment by many to environmental principles, was that sworn resolve five years earlier to reduce the US dependence on foreign oil. The President said:

“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 and businesses and our economy vulnerable to fluctuations in oil prices. Every time oil prices shot up the economy got hurt. Our automakers were in danger of being left in the dust by foreign automakers. Carbon pollution was going unchecked, which was having severe impacts on our weather.

“We set in motion the first-ever national policy aimed at both increasing gas mileage and decreasing greenhouse gas pollution for all new cars and trucks sold in the United States. And as our automakers retooled and prepared to start making the world’s best cars again, we aimed to raise fuel economy standards to 35.5 miles per gallon for a new vehicle by 2016.

“That was an increase of more than eight miles per gallon over what cars had averaged at the time. And what we were clear about was if you set a rule, if you set a clear goal, we would give our companies the certainty that they needed to innovate and out-build the rest of the world. They could figure it out if they had a goal that they were trying to reach. And thanks to their ingenuity and hard work, we’re going to meet that goal.

“Heavy-duty trucks account for just 4% of all the vehicles on the highway. I know when you’re driving sometimes it feels like it’s more, but they’re only 4% of all the vehicles. But they’re responsible for about 20% of carbon pollution in the transportation sector. So trucks like these are responsible for about 20% of our on-road fuel consumption. And because they haul about 70% of all domestic freight every mile that we gain in fuel efficiency is worth thousands of dollars of savings every year.

“In 2011, we set new standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks that take effect this year and last until 2018. In my State of the Union address, I said we’d build on that success. [The] goal is to develop fuel economy standards for heavy-duty trucks that will take us well into the next decade, just like our cars. And they’re going to partner with manufacturers and autoworkers and states and other stakeholders, truckers, to come up with a proposal by March of 2015, and they’ll complete the rule a year after that.”