Federal Agencies Hear Testimony on Strict New Big Truck Emissions Rules

Industry leaders call for including financial incentives, environmental groups ask for earlier deadlines

Trucks in line at the Port of Los Angeles.

LONG BEACH, Calif.—Federal regulators are weighing how best to implement strict new truck emissions standards to both reduce pollution and save fleets money. It may not be easy.

The proposed rules, which call for reductions of up to 24% in CO2 emissions and fuel consumption for trucks starting in 2021 and 8% for trailers in 2018, will involve significant upfront costs in new equipment and technology. At a hearing here Tuesday, supply chain managers and transportation industry groups, along with environmental advocates, air quality regulators and community leaders, offered their takes on the proposed emissions standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks.

Much of the testimony Tuesday offered support for the new standards—with several industry leaders calling the long-term effects of reduced fuel costs a “win-win”—but speakers differed on the details and how the standards should be implemented.

Industry leaders called for the inclusion of financial incentives and an achievable timeline for reaching the new standards, while asking for some technical clarifications and emphasizing the need for a consistent approach to the rules nationwide.

Dan Kieffer of PACCAR Inc., speaking for a group of heavy-duty North American truck manufacturers including Volvo and Daimler, said, “Unnecessarily stringent engine standards will only exacerbate today’s trend of delaying new truck purchases,” and consequently keep older, not-as-clean trucks on the road.

Environmental advocates and regulators called for earlier deadlines, more ambitious goals for reducing fuel consumption and emissions, as well as a stronger emphasis on cleaner, hybrid or fuel cell technologies.

“The proposal misses some critical opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions further,” Mary Nichols, chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board, said.

Ms. Nichols, along with representatives from the Sierra Club, the Environmental Defense Fund and the Union of Concerned Scientists called for an accelerated timeline for implementing the new standards.

Brian Mormino, environmental strategy director for engine manufacturer Cummins Inc., said discrepancies between statewide standards in California and the new federal rules could become problematic. “It is critical that EPA, NHTSA and ARB are aligned” in their approaches to fuel efficiency and pollution emissions, he said.

The new “Phase II” standards expand on earlier goals set by EPA and NHTSA, which apply to current model-year trucks through 2018. Phase II adds the first-ever CO2 and fuel-efficiency standards for trailers used with heavy-duty tractors. Written comments on the proposed new rules are due to the EPA and NHTSA by September 17.

A report published Tuesday by transportation industry group Calstart, which supports clean technology, found that a vast majority of fleet owners support the higher standards but they are concerned about cost, reliability and maintenance of fuel-efficient transportation technologies. Calstart found that for most types of trucks, the technology pays for itself in fuel savings over time—though it depends on the type of truck and what it is used for.

Mike O’Connell, a fleet operations director for Frito-Lay, said his company has made several investments in fuel-efficient vehicles with the understanding that they’ll pay off over time. Emissions standards can work, he said, but “it’s got to meet real world business terms, it’s got to meet the return on investment—the capital and the total cost of ownership.”

Source: The Wall Street Journal