The United States has just taken another step on the (long) road to reducing our oil dependence with the announcement of the first ever fuel economy standards for heavy-duty vehicles.
Oil use in cars, SUVs, trucks, airplanes, trains and all other forms of transportation accounts for more than three-quarters of the nation’s oil consumption. Light-duty vehicles—cars, minivans, SUVs, and small trucks—consume the majority of this oil, while heavy-duty vehicles such as tractor-trailers, local delivery trucks, and buses, consume 14 percent. Oil consumption by these large vehicles, however, is growing faster than any other segment of the transportation sector.
Brand-new fuel economy standards for heavy duty vehicles should help to slow that growth in oil consumption. Unlike light-duty vehicles, for which fuel economy standards were established in the 1970s, heavy-duty vehicles have not had to adhere to efficiency standards, until now.
The new standards will apply to combination trucks (also known as semis), to heavy-duty pickups and vans, and to vehicles such as buses, garbage trucks, delivery trucks, cement mixers, and motor homes. In 2017, combination trucks will be 9 to 23 percent more efficient than those sold in 2010 (the percentage reduction depends on the style of semi). Large pickup trucks and vans will be 10 to 15 percent more efficient, while other heavy-duty vehicles will be 6 to 9 percent more efficient.
While some of these fuel consumption reductions may seem modest, they will have a substantial impact because of the long distances driven in commercial vehicles each year. In addition, these standards will reduce global warming emissions and save money for vehicle owners and operators.
Associate Director and Senior Policy Analyst, Frontier Group
Elizabeth Ridlington is associate director and senior policy analyst with Frontier Group. She focuses primarily on global warming, toxics, health care and clean vehicles, and has written dozens of reports on these and other subjects. Elizabeth graduated with honors from Harvard with a degree in government. She joined Frontier Group in 2002. She lives in Northern California with her husband and son.