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Trucking comments on GHG, fuel efficiency proposals during public meeting

Trucking industry representatives expressed support and concerns regarding the proposed national fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas (GHG) emission standards for heavy- and medium-duty trucks while testifying November 15 in Chicago IL at the first of two public hearings conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Speaking on behalf of the American Trucking Associations (ATA) and the Illinois Trucking Association (ITA), an ATA affiliate, ITA Associate Director Randy Thomas said the trucking industry is “pleased to see that the rules address four of ATA’s six proactive recommendations for reducing the trucking industry’s carbon footprint contained in its 2008 Sustainability Plan--namely reducing GHG’s and improving fuel efficiency by reducing and governing truck speeds; decreasing idling; implementing national fuel efficiency standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks that are both economically and technologically feasible; and using off-the-shelf technologies to increase fuel efficiency verified by EPA under its GHG reduction program known as SmartWay.”

“Our industry has endorsed and participated whole-heartedly in EPA’s SmartWay program since its inception in 2004,” Thomas said. “With over 2,800 total partners driving over 650,000 trucks traveling over 60 billion miles per year, SmartWay partners have saved over 15 million metric tons of CO2, 1.5 billion gallons of diesel fuel, and over $3.5 billion in fuel costs since 2004. We stand ready to continue our work with EPA to ensure further expansion and success of the SmartWay program.”

While supportive of the proposed rules, some fleets have expressed concern that manufacturers might discontinue sales of specific engine or vehicle subcategories that fleets are accustomed to purchasing, instead of using any of the four “flexibility” approaches outlined in the proposal to assist OEMs in achieving their overall GHG and fuel efficiency targets.

“Trucks deemed “less efficient” may no longer be offered for sale to purchasers that spec such equipment for their particular needs,” Thomas told EPA and NHTSA representatives. “The trucking industry supports the proposed rules and, like EPA and NHTSA, wants to ensure the avoidance of “unintended consequences” under the rules. One issue of concern raised by some fleets revolves around the possible increased braking distances associated with certain fuel efficient tires, particularly on rainy or icy pavement. We trust that both agencies will explore these two areas of concern further to ensure we avoid any such unintended consequences.”

Representing the Engine Manufacturers Association (EMA) and the Truck Manufacturers Association, EMA President Jed Mandel said that the industry has a history of working with regulators on innovative programs, such as reducing NOx and particulate emissions from new heavy-duty trucks by over 99% over the past decade. “The GHG/fuel efficiency rule proposed by EPA and NHTSA can be the next success story—for the agencies, for manufacturers, for our customers, and for the public,” he said. “It is important that the proposal be finalized into a workable rule that will expand the use of existing fuel efficiency improvement technologies to a broader of products resulting in a cost-effective program providing real-world greenhouse gas reductions and fuel efficiency improvements. We need a uniform national program that avoids marketplace disruptions and unintended consequences.”

The proposed standards, announced by EPA and NHTSA on Oct. 25, will be phased-in and will achieve from 7% to 20% reductions in GHG emissions and fuel consumption from 2010 baseline Class 8 tractors. These targets, which will be achieved from both engine and truck advancements, will largely employ off-the-shelf technologies such as low-rolling resistance tires, improved aerodynamics, reduced idling, and other measures currently recognized by EPA’s SmartWay Program. Incremental cost increases for combination tractors are projected to be $5,900 in 2014 while other truck categories are expected to see minimal price increases in the range of $200 to $400 per vehicle.

Trailers are not currently being addressed in the proposal. However, some groups at the meeting called on EPA and NHTSA to add trailers (specifically vans) to the rule, contending that fuel economy standards would be ineffective if trailers were not included.

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