green and sustainable business

Green truck standards aid business and the planet

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Kenworth_T680 Advantage Road Tour1_TruckPRA recent report from the Environmental Defense Fund and Ceres says that strong fuel efficiency and GHG emission standards for freight trucks could slash fuel consumption by as much as 40 percent compared to 2010 levels, resulting in significant environmental and economic benefits.

In fact the report suggests that American businesses could save more than $25 billion if the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency adopt stringent fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standards. The two agencies were tasked by President Obama to come up with proposed target standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks by March, 2015.

Heavy trucks haul about 70 percent of U.S. freight, drinking nearly 2.5 million barrels of oil per day while producing nearly half-a-billion tons of carbon pollution a year, according to the report. By 2040 pollution from this sector is projected to increase by another 40 percent.

In 2011, the first-ever fuel efficiency and GHG standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks—those manufactured between 2014 and 2018—were adopted. “While a good first step, the current standards don’t take advantage of many cost-effective technologies that have been identified by the National Research Council and demonstrated through the Department of Energy’s Super Truck program,” the EDF report says. This year NHTSA and EPA began developing so-called Phase 2 fuel efficiency and GHG standards for heavy-duty trucks for 2019 and beyond.

Ceres, a non-profit that advocates for sustainability leadership, EDF and other environmental groups are urging a bolder approach for the next set of standards by taking advantage of existing and emerging technologies, such as improved aero-dynamics, automated manual transmissions, engine improvements and the use of waste-heat recovery, and electrification of accessories.

Tractor-trailer trucks, which can travel more than 120,000 miles a year, “are particularly well positioned for significant improvements in fuel efficiency,” the report says. Today, these trucks average only six miles per gallon (mpg). By 2025, new tractor-trailer units “could cost-effectively achieve nearly 11 mpg under normal operating conditions.”

While 11 mph is not very impressive if you’re driving a Priu or Fiat 500, it’s a major improvement for the heavy-truck segment, some of which are probably delivering those vehicles to a dealership near you.

In the report, independent consultant M.J. Bradley examined the financial impact of a bold approach to Phase 2 standards on the costs to operate tractor-trailer trucks.

The analysis found a bolder standard would:

  • Drive fleet average net savings of 21 cents per mile by 2040. That could mean savings in excess of $25 billion “given that class 8 trucks in the US logged 120 billion miles in 2013,” the report says.
  • Save sleeper truck operators $21,000-$36,000 during the first year the new truck is in service. A new day cab and trailer would realize $3,500-$6,900 in net savings the first year
  • Lower the per-mile cost of heavy truck operation by 3 percent in 2030 and 7 percent in 2040, compared to the cost of operation under the existing standards


Going bold helps in three ways—by reducing per-mile costs for truckers, providing significant financial benefits to shippers, and by meaningfully reducing GHG emissions.

Image: Kenworth – T680 Advantage Road Tour1 by TruckPR via Flickr cc


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