(Updates with environmentalist’s comment in third paragraph.
WASHINGTON — Asking the trucking industry to do more to cut the emissions that add to climate change, the Obama administration on Friday proposed a 24 percent increase in fuel- economy requirements over a decade.
The Environmental Protection Agency and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration proposal fell short of a steeper increase and shorter time frame sought by environmentalists. Truckmakers must be in full compliance by 2027.
“We will be pushing the administration to require compliance sooner, in order to deliver these benefits more quickly,” Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement.
The EPA sided with engine-maker Cummins and transmission manufacturer Eaton and proposed a separate standard and testing procedure for truck engines.
Truckmakers had pushed for eliminating the engine target and just testing the whole vehicle the way automobiles are assessed. That way, fuel consumption targets could be met with less expensive changes, such as improved aerodynamics.
“As a power management company committed to increased fuel efficiency and reduced greenhouse gases, Eaton strongly supports the next phase of standards for medium and heavy duty commercial vehicles,” said Alexander M. Cutler, Eaton Chairman and CEO. “These standards provide important incentives to help deploy the next generation of fuel efficient technologies.
It is the second time regulators set efficiency goals for the more than 7 million tractor trailers and other heavy-duty trucks that haul most of the nation’s goods. Regulators predicted environmental and economic benefits from the truck rules. Reduced shipping costs would eventually be passed onto consumers through lower prices, they said.
Following earlier rules to boost the mileage of cars and cut use of coal to make electricity, the truck-efficiency rule is a step to reach President Barack Obama’s pledge to cut overall U.S. climate emissions by 26 percent by 2025.
”Once upon a time, to be pro-environment you had to be anti-big-vehicles,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement. “This rule will change that. In fact, these efficiency standards are good for the environment — and the economy.”
Unlike standards set in 2011 — lasting through 2018 — these rules force truckmakers to employ new, untested technology. Vehicles built using new technologies developed to meet the new regulatory targets would end up cutting greenhouse-gas emissions by 1 billion metric tons by 2027, saving about 1.8 billion barrels of oil, according to the EPA.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, whose members typically own one or two trucks, has already expressed concern about adding potentially $14,000 to the cost of a new truck and whether untested technology will be reliable enough. The EPA says truck owners’ savings at the pump will allow them to payback any additional vehicle costs in two years.
Fuel is the single largest cost of owning and operating heavy-duty trucks, averaging about $73,000 a year for a tractor- trailer. U.S. households pay about $1,100 a year in diesel charges that are built into retail prices, according to the Consumer Federation of America.
The agency said that most of the gains can be accomplished with existing technology, including more efficient tires, and that the extra costs imposed on vehicles could be recouped by owners within two years by lower fuel bills.
The proposed tractor standards could be met through improvements in the engine, transmission, aerodynamic design and extended idle reduction, EPA said in a fact sheet.