New heavy-duty standards proposed

By Erin Voegele | October 25, 2010
Posted Oct. 26, 2010

The U.S. EPA and U.S. DOT's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have released proposed regulations to establish the nation's first standards to improve the fuel efficiency and reduce the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of medium- and heavy-duty vehicles. The regulations are essentially an extension of the Clean Cars Program, which established similar requirements for light-duty vehicles earlier this year. While the renewable fuel standard (RFS2) aims to reduce GHG emissions through the increased use of renewable fuels, the Clean Cars Program and proposed rulemaking for medium- and heavy-duty trucks seeks to reduce emissions through greater vehicle efficiency.

The agencies have proposed new standards for three categories of heavy-duty trucks; combination tractors, heavy-duty pickups and vans, and vocational vehicles. For combination tractors, the agencies have proposed engine and vehicle standards that begin with model year 2014 vehicles and achieve up to a 20 percent reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and fuel consumption by model year 2018. For heavy-duty pickups and vans, the proposal separates gasoline and diesel truck standards. A 10 percent CO2 and fuel reduction would be required for gasoline-fueled vehicles in the category, with diesel-fueled vehicles required to achieve a 15 percent CO2 and fuel reduction. Both standards would be phased in from model year 2014 to model year 2018. Finally, the proposal would require vocational vehicles to achieve up to a 10 percent CO2 and fuel consumption reduction between model year 2014 and model year 2018.

For the purposes of the proposal, the agencies have defined heavy-duty to incorporate all on-road vehicles rated at a gross vehicle weight at or above 8,500 pounds and the engines that power them, except for those already covered by the current GHG emissions and CAFE standards for model years 2012-2016. According to information released by the EPA, heavy-duty vehicles addressed by the proposal include both work trucks and commercial medium- and heavy-duty on-highway vehicles as defined by the Energy Independence and Security Act. The scope of the two agencies is largely the same with one major exception: The EPA is proposing to include recreational on-highway vehicles, such as motor homes, while the NHTSA is not. Trailers are not covered by the proposal.

Regarding heavy-duty combination tractors, or semi-trucks that pull trailers, the agencies have proposed specific standards for nine subcategories based on a combination of three attributes; weight class, cab type and roof height. The standards for heavy-duty pickups and vans would establish a set of target standard curves based on what the agencies call a "work factor." This would be calculated using a vehicle's payload, towing capabilities and the presence or absence of 4-wheel drive. The standards for vocational vehicles are markedly different than the requirements of the other two categories, as the vocational subsection encompasses a wide range of vehicles. This includes delivery trucks, utility trucks, transit and school buses, emergency vehicles, tow trucks, etc. The agencies propose to regulate the chassis manufacturers of these vehicles and divide the segment into three subcategories consistent with engine classification. According to information released by the EPA, the proposed program for vocational vehicles in this phase of regulatory standards would be limited to tire technologies and hybrid power trains, in addition to the separate engine standards.

The specific requirements for each category and associated subcategory can be accessed on the EPA's website.

"These new standards are another step in our work to develop a new generation of clean, fuel-efficient American vehicles that will improve our environment and strengthen our economy," said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. "In addition to cutting greenhouse gas pollution, greater fuel economy will shrink fuel costs for small businesses that depend on pickups and heavy-duty vehicles, shipping companies and cities and towns with fleets of these vehicles. Those savings can be invested in new jobs at home, rather than heading overseas and increasing our dependence on foreign oil."

While the new proposed standards affect both gasoline and diesel powered heavy-duty vehicles, the impact on the diesel community will be significantly more pronounced. "More than 95 percent of all heavy-duty trucks are diesel-powered, as are a majority of medium-duty trucks, said Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the Diesel Technology Forum. "Diesel power is the driving force today of goods movement by truck in our economy. This proposal clearly envisions clean diesel power as the centerpiece of freight transportation in the clean energy economy of tomorrow."

A 60-day public comment period on the proposal will begin following publication in the Federal Register.
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