WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration proposed new rules on Friday to slash greenhouse gas emissions from heavy, long-haul trucks, a move to attack climate change that prompted a wary response from industry groups worried about the costs.
The complex proposal from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency would apply to 18-wheel tractor-trailers, buses, delivery vans, beefy heavy-duty pickup trucks and other commercial vehicles. They are part of the administration’s broader effort to cut carbon dioxide emissions from the transportation and power sectors of the economy, and precede a new round of global climate change talks in Paris later this year.
Public stakeholders, including industry and environmental groups, will have 60 days to comment on the rules, which regulators are expected to finalize early next year.
Transportation-related greenhouse gases are the second-largest source of emissions after power plants, accounting for roughly 27 percent of total emissions.
Administration officials said the rules would reduce carbon pollution by 1.1 billion tons (1 billion metric tons), conserve 1.8 billion barrels of oil and cut fuel costs by $170 billion from 2018 to 2027. But the administration could accelerate targeted improvements as new fuel-efficient technology becomes available.
The new standards call for a 24 percent reduction in the fuel consumption of truck tractors by 2027 from anticipated 2018 levels. The proposed rules also require an 8 percent reduction in carbon emissions from new aerodynamic truck trailer designs.
Industry groups expressed concern that the proposal, which would increase the cost of a tractor-trailer rig by $10,000 to $12,000, would be a burden to vehicle makers, fleet operators and dealers.
The American Trucking Associations said the new goals could lead to the development of unreliable technology that could slow the intended environmental benefits.
“To prevent this, truck and engine manufacturers will need adequate time to develop solutions to meet these new standards,” said Glen Kedzie, ATA’s energy and environmental counsel.
Environmental organizations and consumer groups praised the action, but some said it might not go far enough.
“It’s an ambitious rule that will accomplish a critical step forward by 2027,” said Phyllis Cuttino, director of the clean energy initiative at Pew Charitable Trusts.
The rules might be a profit generator for manufacturers of fuel-saving technology such as automatic transmissions, lighter-weight axles or high-mileage tires.
Under the proposal, emissions targets will vary for different classes of truck, and will be designed to account for the diverse types of work commercial vehicles do, Chris Grundler, director of the EPA’s office of transportation and air quality, said in a teleconference.
Grundler said there would be separate standards for “vocational trucks” such as cement mixers, garbage trucks or delivery trucks, and for heavy-duty pickups, such as a Ford (F.N) F-250 or Chevrolet (GM.N) Silverado 2500HD to reflect the types of hauling and driving they do.
The proposed standards would measure emissions for tractor-trailers based on grams of carbon dioxide emitted per mile for every ton of freight hauled, for example. A large truck that hauls several tons of freight will burn more fuel per mile than a smaller vehicle but could be more efficient than others carrying the same loads.
Agency officials said the common benchmark of miles of travel per gallon of fuel consumed was not a “useful” way to describe the proposed performance targets.
However, Grundler said that if current long-haul trucks average about five to seven miles per gallon, the best-performing tractor-trailer in 2027 should average about 10 miles per gallon hauling 68,000 pounds of freight at 65 miles per hour.
Other sectors are also in the administration’s sights.
Last week, the EPA took the first steps toward regulating aircraft emissions by confirming their health risks. The agency is expected to finalize sweeping greenhouse gas standards for power plants in August.
Additional reporting by Joseph White in Detroit and Valerie Volcovici in Washington; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn