Diesel Power Ready to Meet Challenge to Achieve Lower Greenhouse Gas Emissions & Increased Fuel Efficiency in Trucks & Buses, New Federal Rules

Aug 09, 2011, 10:50 ET from Diesel Technology Forum

"This landmark new rule envisions diesel power as the continued workhorse of freight transportation in the clean energy economy of tomorrow." Allen Schaeffer, Diesel Technology Forum

WASHINGTON, Aug. 9, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Diesel engines – which power more than 95 percent of America's commercial trucks and 85 percent of its buses – will play a central role of the United States' new effort to reduce fuel consumption and lower greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in the years ahead.

The final rules issued this morning by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) establish a national program to reduce GHG emissions and establish new fuel efficiency standards for commercial trucks and buses beginning in 2014 through 2018.

"This landmark new rule envisions diesel power as the continued workhorse of freight transportation in the clean energy economy of tomorrow," said Allen Schaeffer, the Executive Director of the Diesel Technology Forum.  "The goals set out in these new regulations build on past progress in making diesel clean, and demand further gains in diesel engine efficiency.

"As the industry moves to meet these new standards, the diesel engine provides a strong foundation.  Further improvements to the diesel engine will be made and combined with enhancements to other vehicle components to tackle this new chapter of regulations.  Diesel also provides a unique technology platform suitable for expanded use of hybrid powertrains and lower-carbon renewable fuels - both strategies for reducing GHG emissions in the future.

"It Is Fitting That A Key Solution For Solving This Challenge Lies In The Diesel Engine."
"The billions of dollars in research and development by engine and truck manufacturers over the last decade has paid off and led to the new technology diesel engines and fuels we know today. For all parties, the challenge of increasing fuel efficiency while maintaining or improving environmental, safety and productivity of commercial vehicles is as important as it is complex.  These engines offer an unmatched combination of energy-efficiency, work capability, reliability and now near-zero emissions making them the technology of choice for commercial trucks today and into the foreseeable future."

U.S. Fleet of Trucks Consumes About 22 Billion Gallons of Diesel Fuel Every Year
"Because of the sheer magnitude of commercial vehicles operating in the United States, this regulation has the potential to result in significant environmental and energy efficiency gains," Schaeffer said.  "More than 95 percent of all heavy duty trucks are diesel-powered, as are a majority of medium duty trucks and buses.

"The U.S. fleet of trucks consumes about 22 billion gallons of diesel fuel every year. Over the lifetime of the vehicles affected by the new rule, the program is expected to reduce oil consumption by more than 500 million barrels, result in more than $50 billion in net benefits, and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 250 million metric tons."  

New 2011 Diesel Vehicles Deploy the Most State-Of-The-Art Engine & Emissions Control Systems
"Over the last 10 years, emissions from medium and heavy-duty diesel trucks and buses have been reduced by 99 percent.  Today's new 2011 medium and heavy-duty diesel truck or bus deploys the most state-of-the-art engine and emissions control systems and has near zero emissions; a significant accomplishment considering that increased fuel efficiency and lower emissions are near opposite and competing forces in diesel engine design.  In fact, diesel vehicles manufactured after 2010 are experiencing an average five percent improvement in fuel efficiency, making them cleaner and more fuel efficient than ever before."

Clean Diesel Truck GHG Rule Fact Sheet
In May of 2010, President Obama, in a Rose Garden Ceremony, announced a new effort to propose greenhouse gas and fuel efficiency standards for medium and heavy-duty trucks and buses and to begin the process for further standards for light duty vehicles.  (Note—this fact sheet focuses only on the medium and heavy-duty aspects of this rule.  A separate statement was issued by DTF on July 29, 2011, on the light duty vehicles).

Why is this final rule important?

  • It is the first ever regulation of greenhouse gas emissions and fuel efficiency for heavy-duty vehicles.  Heavy duty tractor trailer trucks consume approximately 22 billion gallons of diesel fuel every year, with medium duty trucks consuming a considerable amount as well.  The potential for fuel savings is significant.

What are the medium and heavy-duty trucks subject to this proposed rule?

  • More than 95 percent of heavy duty trucks and a majority of medium duty trucks are diesel-powered.
  • Practically speaking, these are work trucks – ranging from the largest pickup trucks and commercial delivery box vans to "18-wheeler" tractor-trailer type vehicles.  Fire and rescue trucks, logging trucks, dump trucks, flat-bed trucks, trucks equipped with cranes and lifts, cement mixers, refrigerated trucks, stake body trucks, roll-back trucks, cargo and step vans are all examples of the kinds of trucks covered by this rule.  The rule will establish specific weight categories for the regulation.

Medium duty vehicles are those weighing between 8,500 and 10,000 lbs gross vehicle weight according to NHTSA.  EPA considers anything over 8,500 lbs gvwr as a heavy-duty vehicle. (For more information or graphical images of the kinds of trucks covered by the rule contact shansen@dieselforum.org.)

Why haven't these vehicles been regulated before?

  • Pursuit of high fuel efficiency has always been a market imperative for this segment.  Fuel costs are the first or second highest operating cost of most trucking operations, and the competition for fuel efficiency has always been an integral part of the market.

What is the average fuel efficiency of these vehicles compared to cars?

  • Comparing fuel efficiency standard for passenger cars to commercial trucks is not workable and has been acknowledged as such by NHTSA.
  • For example, the differences in cars and trucks are many.  The vehicles do very different tasks. The typical family car weighs around 2,000 to 4,000 pounds fully loaded.  An 18-wheeler weighs about 80,000 pounds fully loaded at the legal federal limit, and the same cab will pull different commodities of different weights.
  • An average tractor trailer fully loaded today typically achieves anywhere from 5.0 to 7.0 mpg.

What are the most important aspects of this final rule for manufacturers?

  • It is a national program uniform to all 50 states:  National uniformity is essential for many reasons relative to the overall feasibility, implementation, cost and acceptance of the program.
  • Ample lead time and stability:  This is important because the number of commercial trucks made and sold each year (several hundred thousand) is a tiny fraction of the 11-14 million cars made.  The significant diversity in the marketplace will require many hundreds, if not thousands, of different approaches depending on the type of vehicle.    Manufacturers must have adequate lead time to make changes in technology for this diverse vehicle population along with regulatory stability so that they can recoup their investments over the longer sales and turnover cycles common in this segment.  
  • It is compatible with the needs and complexities of the diverse marketplace:  Commercial trucks encompass a wide range of types, shape and sizes with primary and secondary manufacturers of commercial vehicles, along with many vehicles customized to meet the needs of a broad range of specific work tasks. Efforts to impose fuel efficiency standards should not affect vehicle choice or such efforts could have unintended consequences of causing shifts in the marketplace to less productive and more vehicles on the road.
  • Mindfulness of other requirements placed on industry relative to environmental and safety requirements of commercial vehicles:  Unlike passenger cars, commercial trucks must adhere to a number of additional federal and state safety and operational requirements.  Provisions that impact fuel efficiency must not compromise safety or utility of the vehicle.
  • Standards are harmonized to the greatest extent possible:  Both EPA and NHTSA are working on these standards and both, as well as other divisions in DOT, have additional authority in regulating this sector.  Any future standards should harmonize amongst all federal and state agencies.

Which technologies could be incorporated as a result of this rule?

  • Many initial gains in fuel efficiency will be realized through improvements in the efficiency of the diesel engines.  This will include further advances in combustion efficiency, waste heat recovery, improved efficiency through advanced turbocharging and fuel injection.  Other technologies such as lower rolling resistance tires and aerodynamics, idle reduction strategies and other approaches may also be suitable as a total vehicle approach.
  • Some vehicles may be more appropriate for some solutions than others.  For example long haul trucks can benefit from aerodynamic improvements that cut vehicle drag and save fuel because they operate at higher average speeds.  However local pickup and delivery trucks would not benefit from aerodynamics but would benefit from increased use of hybrid powertrains because of the stop and go nature of their operations.
  • Many of the proposed technology solutions are "off the shelf" and the rule advances their wider spread implementation.

The Diesel Technology Forum is a non-profit national organization dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of diesel engines, fuel and technology. Forum members are leaders in clean diesel technology and represent the three key elements of the modern clean-diesel system: advanced engines, vehicles and equipment, cleaner diesel fuel and emissions-control systems.  For more information visit www.dieselforum.org.

Available Topic Expert(s): For information on the listed expert(s), click appropriate link.

Allen Schaeffer


Steve Hansen
202-355-3664 (c)

SOURCE Diesel Technology Forum