The White House on Tuesday announced the first-ever fuel-efficiency standards for heavy-duty trucks, standards the Obama administration says will save billions in fuel costs, slash oil consumption and reduce harmful air pollution.
President Obama was slated to announce the standards at an event Tuesday morning in Springfield, Va. But the event was canceled possibly so the president could attend a return ceremony for the 30 U.S. troops killed Saturday in Afghanistan. The president instead held a closed-door meeting at the White House to discuss the standards with industry officials.
“Thanks to the Obama Administration, for the first time in our history we have a common goal for increasing the fuel efficiency of the trucks that deliver our products, the vehicles we use at work, and the buses our children ride to school,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement.
Medium- and heavy-duty trucks are a major source of air pollution and fuel consumption. They make up about 4 percent of the total vehicles on the road in the United States, but they account for about 20 percent of oil used and 20 percent of the greenhouse gases emitted by the transportation sector.
Over the life of the program, the White House said, the new standards will save truck owners $50 billion in fuel costs, reduce oil consumption by 530 million barrels and prevent 270 million metric tons of greenhouse gases from escaping into the atmosphere — while imposing minimal costs on truck owners. A semi-truck owner, for example, could pay for the necessary upgrades in a year and save $73,000 over the life of the vehicle, according to the White House.
The standards build on tighter fuel-economy rules for cars and light-duty trucks announced by the Obama administration late last month.
“While we were working to improve the efficiency of cars and light-duty trucks, something interesting happened,” Obama said in a statement. “We started getting letters asking that we do the same for medium and heavy-duty trucks.”
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Obama called on his administration to develop standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks in a 2010 memorandum. The White House, along with officials from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation, worked closely with key industry officials on the standards, echoing the strategy behind previous fuel-economy negotiations.
Top industry groups and trucking companies — including Navistar, Volvo, Chrysler, Con-way and others — endorsed the standards Tuesday.
“And today, I’m proud to have the support of these companies as we announce the first-ever national policy to increase fuel efficiency and decrease greenhouse gas pollution from medium-and heavy-duty trucks,” Obama said.
The rules impose different standards on three categories of vehicles, according to the Transportation Department.
Big rigs and semi-trucks must achieve up to 23 percent reduction in fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by model year 2018.
Heavy-duty pickup trucks and vans must achieve a 10 percent-to-15 percent reduction in fuel economy and a 12 percent-to-17 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by model year 2018, depending on whether they run on gasoline or diesel fuel.
Delivery trucks, buses and garbage trucks must reduce their fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by 9 percent by model year 2018.
Environmental and clean-air groups lauded the standards Tuesday.
“We strongly applaud the administration’s continued leadership on efforts to increase fuel efficiency and curb global warming pollution,” Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters, said in a statement. “Following President Obama’s historic clean cars announcement last month, this action represents yet another important step toward transforming our nation’s energy policies, rebuilding our struggling economy and protecting the planet for future generations.”