California Truckers React to New Fuel Standards

Craig Miller

The trade group for California’s truckers says it welcomes the new federal fuel standards for big rigs — for the most part, anyway.

Yesterday President Obama announced that all heavy duty vehicles must get up to 20 percent better mileage by 2014.  This marks the first ever federal fuel efficiency rules for heavy trucks and buses.

Michael Shaw of the California Trucking Association said he welcomes the standards but wants equal focus on improving vehicle reliability.

“We want reliability considered as important as fuel efficiency because, ultimately, if a vehicle is running more efficiently, but it’s spending more time in the shop… then you may have to purchase a new truck.” said Shaw. “So are we really getting the benefit we’re expected to get?”

Shaw says these rules may also increase costs for truckers.

“Often times, as has been the case historically, new engine technology has lead to increases in the price of trucks,” he said. “We’ve seen that in regard to California mandates for diesel particulate filters… which have driven up the cost of engines and trucks.”

The fuel rules affect model years 2014 through 2018 and designate separate fuel standards depending on the type of vehicle. For example, semi-trucks will have to improve fuel efficiency by 23%, but garbage trucks and fire engines will have to improve efficiency by just 10%.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates an eight billion dollar up-front cost for the trucking industry based on current available technology, but says truckers would make this up over a one-to-two year payback period. The agency expects the new measures to save the trucking industry $50 billion.

According to the EPA, “Under the comprehensive new national program, trucks and buses built in 2014 through 2018 will reduce oil consumption by a projected 530 million barrels and greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution by approximately 270 million metric tons.”

The new rules come just weeks after Obama announced tough new federal fuel standards for cars and light trucks built between 2017 and 2025.