Senate panel sets mileage standard mandate for trucks

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The U.S. Senate Commerce Committee Tuesday, May 8, approved The Ten-in-Ten Fuel Economy Act, a bill that would mandate a mileage standard for the first time for medium- and heavy-duty trucks. S. 357 — which also would raise the passenger fleet automotive fuel standard to an average 35 miles per gallon by 2020 — passed on a voice vote and should go to the full Senate for debate and a vote in June, lawmakers said.

The Ten-in-Ten Fuel Economy Act — sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who is not a member of the Commerce Committee — also would require that after 2020 and until 2030, fuel economy in automobiles and light trucks increase by at least 4 percent a year. S. 357 also would require mileage improvement gains for medium- and heavy-duty trucks of 4 percent per year, marking the first time such mandates would be set for heavy-duty trucks of more than 10,000 pounds.

Present standards require that new passenger cars achieve 27.5 mpg, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; the standard has not changed since 1990. A House of Representatives committee is working on its own plan to increase the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards. Major automakers — including Ford, General Motors and Toyota — oppose the Senate bill, saying the proposed standard represents too steep a rise and will be too costly to achieve.

The Senate committee also approved an amendment that would prohibit price increases for gasoline during national emergencies, such as those declared by the federal government after a hurricane or flood.