Trucking industry hopeful and nervous about new federal efficiency, carbon emission rules

by Wesley Brown ([email protected]) 124 views 

Trucking officials in Arkansas and the U.S. are hoping the final round of greenhouse gas and fuel efficiency standards by the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation will achieve targets set out by the Obama administration and not disrupt fleet operators and manufacturers during the 10-year phase in period.

Shannon Newton, president of the Arkansas Trucking Association, said while the new standards are expected to improve fuel efficiency and cut carbon emission, there are ample costs to independent and small trucking firms associated with implementing the new rules.

“I just don’t want the issues of cost to get lost in all of this,” Newton said Wednesday (Aug. 18). “It is also worth noting that the air filtering out of the exhaust of a commercial truck today is actually cleaner than the air coming in, which is fascinating in my opinion.”

American Trucking Associations’ President and CEO Chris Spear echoed some of Newton’s concerns about operating costs for trucking firms.

“While today’s fuel prices are more than 50% lower than those we experienced in 2008, fuel is still one of the top two operating expenses for most trucking companies,” Spears said in a statement. “That’s why our industry has worked closely with both the EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration over the past three-and-a-half years to ensure these fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standards took into account the wide diversity of equipment and operations across the trucking sector.”

On Monday, the EPA and the DOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) jointly finalized standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles that seek to improve fuel efficiency and cut carbon pollution, while bolstering energy security and spurring manufacturing innovation. The new standards, along with the Clean Power Plan, are part of President Barack Obama’s broad Climate Action to develop new carbon emission rules that run into the next decade.

According to Obama administration officials, the final phase two program promotes a new generation of cleaner, more fuel-efficient trucks by encouraging the wider application of currently available technologies and the development of new and advanced cost-effective technologies through model year 2027. Obama administration officials say the final standards are expected to lower CO2 emissions by approximately 1.1 billion metric tons, save vehicle owners fuel costs of about $170 billion, and reduce oil consumption by up to two billion barrels over the lifetime of the vehicles sold under the program. Overall, the program will provide $230 billion in net benefits to society, including benefits to our climate and the public health of Americans, outweighing costs by about an 8-to-1 ratio, EPA officials said.

The final standards are cost effective for consumers and businesses, delivering favorable payback periods for truck owners, the EPA said. For example, the buyer of a new long-haul truck in 2027 would recoup the investment in fuel-efficient technology in less than two years through fuel savings.

“The actions we take … on climate change will help lessen the impacts on future generations,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “This next phase of standards for heavy- and medium-duty vehicles will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions while driving innovation, and will ensure that the United States continues to lead the world in developing fuel-efficient technologies through the next decade and beyond.”

DOT officials said heavy-duty trucks are the second largest segment and collectively make up the biggest increase in the U.S. transportation sector in terms of emissions and energy use, accounting for about 20% of GHG emissions and oil use in the U.S. transportation sector.

“(This) ambitious but achievable announcement is a huge win for the American people, giving us cleaner air, more money saved at the pump, and real benefits for consumers across the supply chain,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “Today’s action preserves flexibility for manufacturers to deliver on these objectives through a range of innovations and technology pathways.”

Despite a good first impression, trucking industry officials remain concerned about how the phase-in period will affect the industry over the next decade. The ATA said it has evaluated potential impacts on the trucking industry over the past year and has been in constant dialogue with fleets, suppliers, and manufacturers to make sure that Phase 2 could be effectively implemented.

“ATA developed and adopted a set of 15 guiding principles to serve as our major parameters for inclusion in the final rule,” said ATA Vice President and Energy and Environmental Counsel Glen Kedzie. “We are pleased that our concerns such as adequate lead-time for technology development, national harmonization of standards, and flexibility for manufacturers have been heard and included in the final rule.”

ATA officials said they will remain engaged with federal regulators to make sure goals of the new standards are achieved.

“For that to happen, however, the process adopted by EPA and NHTSA must remain transparent, accommodating and sensitive to the concerns of manufacturers and fleets as they are the ones who ultimately must bear the burden of complying with these new requirements,” Spears said.