President Obama has signed a presidential memorandum directing the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to jointly issue the nation’s first fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards on new medium- and heavy-duty trucks, beginning with model year 2014. The president directed that EPA and NHTSA try to issue a final rule by July 30, 2011. The announcement came at a White House signing ceremony on Friday, May 21, that involved the senior executives of the major truck and engine manufacturers and other leaders, including American Trucking Associations Chairman Tommy Hodges
In the memorandum, Obama directed EPA and NTSA to consider strategies designed to increase use of existing technologies to reduce emissions and fossil fuel consumption. “These strategies should consider whether particular segments of the diverse heavy-duty vehicle sector present special opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase fuel economy. For example, preliminary estimates indicate that large tractor trailers, representing half of all greenhouse gas emissions from this sector, can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 20 percent and increase their fuel efficiency by as much as 25 percent with the use of existing technologies.”
The standards should take into account “the market structure of the trucking industry and the unique demands of heavy-duty vehicle applications,” the memorandum states. They also should seek harmonization with applicable state standards, consider the findings and recommendations in the National Academy of Science report “and enhance job creation in the United States,” it adds.
In 2007, Congress directed DOT to issue fuel economy standards on medium- and heavy-duty trucks following a National Academy of Sciences study. The National Research Council, the parent organization of NAS, issued that report on March 31. Under the 2007 law, the standards were to come by the middle of this decade, which the presidential memorandum would accomplish.
Obama directed EPA and NHTSA to “seek input from all stakeholders, while recognizing the continued leadership role of California and other States.”
The announcement comes exactly one year after the Obama administration announced an agreement to increase fuel efficiency for cars and light trucks. In his comments, Obama said that medium- and heavy-duty vehicles account for about one-fifth of all greenhouse gas emissions.
As with the automobile standards announced earlier, the Obama administration has expanded the scope of the regulations to include not only fuel efficiency but greenhouse gas emissions, which is why EPA and NHTSA issued the new car and light-truck standards jointly earlier this year. While fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions are linked closely, there are automotive functions – such as gases used in air conditioning – that affect greenhouse gases without necessarily affecting fuel economy.