EPA & DOT Releases GHG/Fuel Efficiency Rules for Medium- & Heavy-Duty Trucks

08.16.16 | Blog | By:

Last week EPA and the Department of Transportation through the National Highways Safety & Traffic Administration (NHTSA) released the final GHG/fuel efficiency regulation for medium- and heavy-duty engines and trucks for the model years 2021-2027, which will apply to semi-trucks, large pickup trucks and vans, buses, tractors and other such vehicles. EPA notes that when fully implemented, the rules mean that 2027 model-year heavy-duty trucks will be 25%t more carbon efficient than those sold in the 2018 model year.

Big pickup trucks and vans will become 2.5% more efficient each year between 2021 and 2027. The rule has support from consumer groups, environmentalists, trucking companies and those companies that rely on trucking, such as Walmart, Pepsi, Waste Management and FedEx. Fuel has long been the largest single cost for trucking fleets in the U.S., making up 40% of the cost of ownership in 2013.

The Phase 2 standards maintain the underlying regulatory structure developed in the Phase 1 program, such as the general categorization of medium- and heavy-duty vehicles and the separate engine standards. Under Phase 2, agencies are additionally adopting first-time CO2 and fuel efficiency standards for certain trailers used with heavy-duty combination tractors. Specifically, EPA’s CO2 emissions standards and NHTSA’s fuel consumption standards are tailored to each of four regulatory categories of heavy-duty vehicles:

  • Combination Tractors;
  • Trailers Pulled by Combination Tractors;
  • Heavy-duty Pickup Trucks and Vans; and
  • Vocational Vehicles, which include all other heavy-duty vehicles such as buses, refuse trucks, and concrete mixers.

ICCT has put together a couple of great charts to show CO2 reductions and fuel consumption for different classes of vehicles for both phase 1 (already implemented) and phase 2 of the regulation.

The program also includes separate standards for the engines that power combination tractors and vocational vehicles. As with the Phase 1 program, the agencies are adopting separate standards and test cycles for tractor engines, vocational diesel engines, and vocational gasoline engines.

For diesel engines, the standards begin in model year 2021 and phase in to model year 2027, with interim standards in model year 2024. The final diesel engine standards will reduce CO2 emissions and fuel consumption by up to 5% for tractor engines and up to 4% for vocational engines compared to Phase 1.

Heavy-duty trucks are the second largest segment and collectively make up the biggest increase in the US transportation sector in terms of emissions and energy use. These vehicles currently account for about 20% of GHG emissions and oil use in the U.S. transportation sector, but represent about 5% of total highway traffic. Globally, GHG emissions from heavy-duty vehicles are growing rapidly and are expected to surpass emissions from passenger vehicles by 2030.

Notably, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) announced its support of the rule, but noted “[t]o meet our long-term [GHG] goals out to 2050, California will need to continue to make progress, even after the Phase 2 standards are fully implemented in 2027. CARB is looking forward to continued cooperation with the federal agencies and the heavy-duty industry on this long-term effort.” Read: Phase 3 is coming in the future.

Meantime, the Department of Energy the same day announced $137 million in investments for two programs to develop next generation technologies that will support industry in going beyond those standards while also accelerating technology advances for passenger cars and light trucks. The funding is subject to the congressional appropriations process, which could get tricky depending on which party holds the majority post the November election.

One initiative, SuperTruck II, will fund four projects to develop and demonstrate cost-effective technologies that more than double the freight efficiency of Class 8 trucks, commonly known as 18-wheelers. Through another initiative, the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Vehicle Technologies Office Program Wide Funding Opportunity Announcement selections, 35 new projects will receive $57 million to develop and deploy a wide array of cutting-edge vehicle technologies, including advanced batteries and electric drive systems, to reduce carbon emissions and petroleum consumption in passenger cars and light trucks.