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Obama orders next round of truck fuel efficiency reductions

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(Tire Business file photo)

WASHINGTON (Feb. 19, 2014) — President Barack Obama has directed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to go forward in developing the next phase of fuel-efficiency and greenhouse gas standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles.

The target dates are March 2015 for a proposed standard and March 2016 for a final rule, the White House said in a Feb. 18 statement.

"This second round of fuel-efficiency standards will build in the first-ever standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, model years 2014 through 2018, which were proposed and finalized by this administration," the White House said.

That first standard will save owners and operators of heavy-duty vehicles some $60 billion in fuel costs and an estimated 530 million barrels of oil, it said.

The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) praised the Obama administration's announcement. Also on Feb. 18, the CFA released a report saying that further tightening of fuel-economy standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks would save U.S. consumers $29.5 billion, or $250 per household.

"We know that the fuel costs associated with shipping goods cross-country heavily impact the price of everything from a carton of milk to a pair of shoes," said Mark Cooper, CFA director of research.

The American Trucking Associations (ATA) also endorsed the Obama administration's fuel-efficiency goals, but urged the government to proceed cautiously in setting a new standard.

"Fuel is one of our industry's largest expenses, so it makes sense that as an industry we would support proposals to use less of it," said Bill Graves, ATA president and CEO.

"However, we should make sure that new rules don't conflict with safety or other environmental regulations, nor should they force specific types of technology onto the market before they are fully tested and ready."

The Diesel Technology Forum said the administration's directive sets the next challenge for clean diesel technology purveyors, which already have made massive improvements to the fuel economy and clean operation of heavy trucks.

"It would take 60 new clean diesel trucks to produce the same level of emissions as a truck manufactured in 1988," said Allen Schaeffer, the Forum's executive director.

The Heavy Duty Fuel Efficiency Leadership Group, a coalition of truck fleets and advanced technology providers, issued a statement of principles stressing that the second phase of fuel-economy and greenhouse gas improvements for heavy-duty vehicles must build on the first.

"Phase I utilized proven testing/certification protocols while establishing incentives to drive adoption of advanced and innovative technologies," the group said. "Additionally, it minimized compliance burdens by relying heavily on the existing emissions protocols. Phase II should not impose requirements that shift compliance burdens to end-users."

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