Given that environmental issues and the need to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil are currently hot button issues, the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency have laid out fuel economy and emissions proposals for all commercial vehicles – i.e. medium-duty trucks, big rigs, buses, motor coaches and RVs.
Three categories are being proposed: those for over the road trucks (which the agencies have labeled combination tractors) would be phased in beginning in 2014 and aim to achieve a 20 percent reduction in fuel economy and emissions by the fourth year of implementation (2018). Those for heavy-duty pickups, also designed to be phased in beginning in 2014, will actually comprise two different standards – one for gasoline engines, the other for diesels, which aim at a 10 and 15 percent reduction in smog output and fuel consumption respectively. Lastly, the proposed standards for vocation vehicles, also slated for a 2014 phase in would aim to achieve a 10 percent reduction in emissions and improvement in fuel economy through 2018.
Ray LaHood, the current U.S. Transportation Secretary, declared that the NHTSA and EPA proposals are “a win-win-win for the environment, businesses and the American consumer.” He also stated that “through [these] new fuel-efficiency standards for trucks and buses, we will not only reduce transportation’s environmental impact, we’ll reduce the cost of transporting freight.”
Exactly how the cost in transporting freight will be reduced remains to be seen. Currently, the vast majority of freight in North America is transported by truck and these new standards are stringent – a 20 percent reduction in fuel economy over such a short time frame is going to be difficult to achieve, which is already causing bumps to appear on the horizon. If big rig manufacturers and fleets aren’t able to meet these targets, then it is likely they will face hefty fines which in turn will be passed onto consumers – raising the cost for goods and services, including such essentials as housing, clothes, food and fuel. So instead of reducing freight costs they’re like to increase quite considerably. Meanwhile, economic analysts predict that it will take the best part of a decade for the U.S. economy to rid itself of the most recent recession and these standards will hit at a time when many Americans will likely still be struggling to make ends meet.