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October 22, 2010
4:42 PM

CONTACT: Union of Concerned Scientists

Elliott Negin
Media Director

Administration Set to Propose First-Ever Truck Fuel Efficiency Standards

UCS Releases Model Tractor Trailer Design Aimed at Boosting Fuel Efficiency

WASHINGTON - October 22 - The Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency are expected to jointly propose the first-ever fuel efficiency and global warming pollution standards for medium and heavy-duty trucks as early as next week, according to media reports. The proposed standards, which are expected to cover various categories of trucks sold in model years 2014 through 2018, are slated to be finalized in July 2011 following a public comment period.

The proposal is the latest announcement stemming from President Obama’s decision in May to boost fuel efficiency and cut global warming pollution in the U.S. transportation sector. Besides the forthcoming truck standards, the administration is developing a new round of clean car standards for passenger vehicles. Earlier this month, the administration released an analysis showing that automakers could achieve an average of 60 miles per gallon for new cars and light trucks by 2025.

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) today released a virtual tractor-trailer design, called the Convoy, which illustrates how various technologies could improve tractor-trailer fuel efficiency. The organization can provide journalists with both print and Web versions of the Convoy graphic.

Don Anair, a senior analyst in UCS’s Clean Vehicles Program, is available to discuss the proposed truck standards. Brendan Bell, the Clean Vehicles Program Washington Representative also is available for comment regarding both the truck and passenger vehicle standards.

The trucks expected to be covered by the proposed standards account for only 4 percent of vehicles on the road nationwide, but consume 20 percent of the country’s fuel, according to UCS. Tractor-trailers—big-rig trucks—consume the most fuel. A UCS analysis found that clean technology could reduce tractor-trailer fuel consumption at least 35 percent by 2017.

Current average fuel economy for long-haul tractor-trailers, which often travel more than 100,000 miles annually, is only about 6.5 miles per gallon. Clean technology could boost it to 10 miles per gallon by 2017. A suite of technologies—including more efficient engines, more aerodynamic designs for the tractor and trailer, and idle-off capability—could reduce the average long-haul tractor-trailer’s fuel consumption by 7,000 gallons annually, saving truck operators $24,500 in reduced fuel costs assuming diesel prices of $3.50 a gallon.

Improving medium and heavy-duty truck fuel efficiency would go a long way to help curb U.S. oil dependence by saving as much as 5.6 billion gallons of oil annually by 2030, according to an analysis UCS conducted with the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy and the Natural Resources Defense Council released in September. That figure is based on cutting fuel use by new long-haul tractors pulling van trailers 35 percent and by other medium and heavy-duty trucks by 20 percent over the next seven years. Those fuel savings would reduce global-warming pollution by 70 million metric tons—the equivalent of taking more than 10 million of today’s cars and light trucks off the road.

According to a May 2010 analysis by UCS and CALSTART, a leading advanced transportation technologies consortium, increasing truck fuel economy would also create 63,000 additional jobs nationwide in 2020.  These jobs represent employment in the trucking sector, clean technology, and broader economy-wide job benefits due to reinvestment of fuel savings.  

The Union of Concerned Scientists is the leading science-based nonprofit working for a healthy environment and a safer world. UCS combines independent scientific research and citizen action to develop innovative, practical solutions and to secure responsible changes in government policy, corporate practices, and consumer choices.

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