Government Mandated Fuel Standards for Carriers Meet with Mixed Reviews

truck driving down highway

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is putting in place, for the first time ever, regulations that will require tractor-trailers to achieve certain fuel efficiency. These pollution standards have been set based on the government’s estimate of the environmental toll of big trucks, which they say contribute 6 percent of our greenhouse gas emissions. The government also says that big trucks burn up to 12 percent of U.S. oil.

The new regulations will require all new semi trucks sold from 2014-2018 to operate with 20 percent increased fuel efficiency. This will be estimated to save up to four gallons of fuel for every 100 miles traveled. The EPA estimates the regulations, when implemented, could save American businesses who own and operate the trucks about $50 billion in fuel costs of the life of the four-year program.

How Will the Standards be Achieved?

Carriers will have to invest in equipment that will cost thousands of dollars extra to improve their fuel efficiency. Tractor-trailers with newer engines incorporating these fuel-saving parts will be even pricier than previous trucks. The EPA’s new regulation focuses on the mechanics of fuel savings, instead of less expensive alternatives like implementing more fuel-efficient driving techniques. In 2010, the National Academy of Sciences found that driver training offers the most potential fuel savings.

Small Carriers Will Suffer

While fuel efficiency is the goal of every profit-driven carrier, many small companies argue that the cost of installing the equipment on trucks that may only have a few years of use left. Small carriers represented by Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) the impact of these new standards on small trucking companies is not being considered in this “one size fits all” plan. The organization stated, “The new rule ignores input from small-business trucking, overlooks less expensive options to achieve EPA goals of reduced emissions, and will ultimately increase new truck costs.”

Smaller carriers are no minority. In fact, according to OOIDA, 96 percent of the registered motor carriers in the U.S. operate 20 or fewer trucks.

The ATA supports the goals of the fuel efficiency standards, as do big trucking companies, who say it is a win for the industry and the customer. Certainly, if consulted, Mother Nature would also agree.

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