Ahead of the release of a new heavy duty truck fuel-efficiency standard from the Environmental Protection Agency and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration this spring, a new Union of Concerned Scientists study, released this week, says new fuel efficiency standards for heavy duty trucks should require at least a 40 percent decrease in fuel use, and shows the target is achievable with existing technology and would result in billions of dollars in fuel cost savings.
According to the study, Engines for Change, if today’s trucks met a 40 percent standard, oil use would be reduced by 9 billion gallons from shipping goods alone, saving truckers $30 billion in fuel costs and cutting more than 110 million tons of CO2 emissions.
“Heavy duty trucks make up only 7 percent of the vehicles on the road, but they use a quarter of the fuel, and they’re integrated into every aspect of our economy,” said Michelle Robinson, director of the Clean Vehicles Program at UCS. “Almost everything you buy, eat, wear or live in depends on trucks at some point in the process — so everything you buy comes with a side of oil.”
Heavy duty trucks today haven’t gotten more than six miles to the gallon since the 1970s. The freight truck fleet uses 21 billion gallons of fuel a year — over half of that amount is used to move consumer goods, including 400,000 gallons to ship cell phones and 66 million gallons just for milk.
“This is low-hanging fruit with huge potential,” said Dave Cooke, UCS’ vehicles analyst and author of the report. “A new fuel-efficient truck will be more cost-effective than a conventional truck after just 18 months. Once the cost of the new technology is paid off, the average truck driver will save $30,000 a year on fuel. And a standard this strong will save America more oil every year than the entire annual production output of Alaska.”
The UCS study examined a wide range of products and companies including five of the country’s biggest trucking fleets, familiar brands that Americans interact with every day— Coca-Cola, Pepsi, FedEx, Walmart, and **UPS (**the latter three already innovating to improve the efficiency of their fleets) — and determined they could cut their fuel use by 500 million gallons a year under the new standards, saving $1.7 billion on fuel.
“The new standards should help protect consumers against future fuel price increases,” said Robinson. “We’ve all seen how gas price spikes affect the costs of everyday goods. This simple, doable step should help buffer against that trend.”
The report points out that the technology exists to make new trucks 40 percent more efficient compared to 2010 levels, in a cost-effective way.
“With the administration developing new fuel economy standards for trucks, we have a unique opportunity to reduce both the economic impacts of our oil consumption and the vehicle emissions that contribute to climate change,” Cooke said. “The benefits of higher standards will ripple through the economy.”
Other innovations in trucking fuel-efficiency include Goodyear’s long haul drive tire which uses fuel-efficient compounds, tire constructions and tread designs to lower the rolling resistance of the tires, and reduces truck fuel consumption. On the other hand, Unilever, scrapped trucks altogether in favor of more fuel-efficient train systems in Italy.