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Bill DiBenedetto headshot

EDF: Green Trucks Good for the Planet and Business


A report released last week by the Environmental Defense Fund and Ceres says that strong fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas (GHG) emission standards for freight trucks could slash fuel consumption by as much as 40 percent compared to 2010 levels, resulting in significant environmental and economic benefits.

In fact, the report suggests that American businesses could save more than $25 billion if the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency adopt stringent fuel efficiency and GHG standards. The two agencies were tasked by President Barack Obama to come up with proposed target standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks by March 2015.

Heavy trucks haul about 70 percent of U.S. freight, gobbling nearly 2.5 million barrels of oil per day while producing nearly half-a-billion tons of carbon pollution a year, according to the report. By 2040, pollution from this sector is projected to increase by another 40 percent.

In 2011, the first-ever fuel efficiency and GHG standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks — those manufactured between 2014 and 2018 — were adopted. “While a good first step, the current standards don’t take advantage of many cost-effective technologies that have been identified by the National Research Council and demonstrated through the Department of Energy’s Super Truck program,” the EDF report says. This year NHTSA and EPA began developing so-called Phase 2 fuel efficiency and GHG standards for heavy-duty trucks for 2019 and beyond.

Ceres, a nonprofit that advocates for sustainability leadership, EDF and other environmental groups are urging a bold approach for the next set of standards by taking advantage of existing and emerging technologies, such as improved aerodynamics, automated manual transmissions, engine improvements and the use of waste-heat recovery, and electrification of accessories.

Tractor-trailer trucks, which can travel more than 120,000 miles a year, “are particularly well positioned for significant improvements in fuel efficiency,” the report says. Today, these trucks average only 6 miles per gallon (mpg). By 2025, new tractor-trailer units “could cost-effectively achieve nearly 11 mpg under normal operating conditions.”

So while 11 mpg is not at all impressive if you’re driving a Prius, it’s a major improvement for the heavy-truck segment, some of which are probably delivering Prius vehicles to dealerships across the country.

For the report, independent consultant M.J. Bradley examined the financial impact of a bold approach to Phase 2 standards on the costs to operate tractor-trailer trucks.

The analysis found a bolder standard would:

  • Drive fleet average net savings of 21 cents per mile by 2040. That could mean savings in excess of $25 billion “given that class 8 trucks in the U.S. logged 120 billion miles in 2013,” the report says.

  • Save sleeper truck operators $21,000 to $36,000 during the first year the new truck is in service. A new day cab and trailer would realize $3,500 to $6,900 in net savings the first year

  • Lower the per-mile cost of heavy truck operation by 3 percent in 2030 and 7 percent in 2040, compared to the cost of operation under the existing standards.

Going bold helps in three ways — by reducing per-mile costs for truckers, providing significant financial benefits to shippers, and by meaningfully reducing GHG emissions.

Image credit: Class 8 tractor-trailer by heavy-duty manufacturers Cummins and Peterbilt via Energy.gov

Bill DiBenedetto headshotBill DiBenedetto

Writer, editor, reader and generally good (okay mostly good, well sometimes good) guy trying to get by.

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