Making good on a promise from his Sate of the Union address, President Obama ordered the implementation of new fuel-efficiency standards for medium and heavy-duty commercial trucks by March 2016.
The president discussed his expectations Feb. 18 at a Safeway distribution center in Upper Marlboro, Md. He wants the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation to publish a notice of proposed rulemaking by March 2015.
He said Safeway was “an early leader on the issue.”
“By improving the aerodynamics of its trucks, investing in larger trailers, more efficient tires, Safeway has improved its own fuel efficiency. And the results are so solid that Safeway now encourages all the companies it hires to ship its products to do the same,” Obama said.
Obama did not specify levels of fuel efficiency or emission reductions. A White House fact sheet on his directive states federal agencies will “work closely with stakeholders, both large and small, to explore further opportunities for fuel consumption and emissions reductions beyond the model year 2018 timeframe.”
While environmentalists and some vehicle manufacturers support the initiative, some trucking organizations do not.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, says the new rules will cost consumers. The group’s website states about 97% of the 1.3 million trucking companies in the U.S. have less than 20 trucks and are already struggling to meet new federal rules. Those increased costs are passed on to consumers, according to OOIDA.
Obama said the opposite Feb. 18, contending that if businesses save on fuel costs, consumers will, too.
“Trucks like these are about 4% of the vehicles on the road but are responsible for about 20% of our on-road fuel consumption. And because they haul about 70% of the stuff we use, everything from flat-screen TVs to diapers to produce to you name it, every mile that we gain in fuel efficiency is worth thousands of dollars of savings every year.
“And improving gas mileage for these trucks is going to drive down our oil imports even further. That … cuts down on businesses’ fuel costs, which should pay off in lower prices for consumers.”
Obama’s SuperTruck program through the Department of Energy partnered with four major truck engine manufacturers already, resulting in a fuel-efficiency increase from 6.5 mpg to about 9.75 mpg for 18-wheelers, according to a special White house report.
“… each long-haul truck driver could save about 5,000 gallons of fuel and $20,000 annually driving a SuperTruck instead of a conventional truck,” according to the White House fact sheet. “If all Class 8 vehicles in the U.S. were SuperTrucks, the country would consume nearly 300 million fewer barrels of oil and spend nearly $30 billion less on fuel each year.”