Obama Admin Touts $50 Billion Savings from New Fuel Standards for Trucks, Buses

Aug 9, 2011 12:57pm

ABC News’ Devin Dwyer (@devindwyer) reports:  The Obama administration, eager to highlight business-friendly policies and regulations, today unveiled the first ever fuel efficiency standards for heavy trucks and buses that officials and industry leaders say will save companies significant cash.

By 2018, big-rigs and semi-trucks will be required to consume 23 percent less fuel on average under the new rules, while heavy duty pick-up trucks and vans will required to be 15 percent more fuel efficient.

Delivery trucks, buses, and garbage trucks will need to show a 10 percent reduction in fuel consumption.

The standards, developed jointly by the Department of Transportation and EPA, will reduce oil consumption by a projected 530 million barrels, curb greenhouse gas emissions, and cut fuel costs for businesses by $50 billion over the lifetime operation of trucks produced between 2014 and 2018, the administration claims.

The heads of several American truck manufacturers met with President Obama at the White House today to endorse the new rules. 

“We think it was a win, win for everyone,” said Bill Graves, president and CEO of the American Trucking Associations. “We think it’s a positive development for our nation and our industry.”

Martin Daum, CEO of Daimler Trucks North America, praised the uniform industry-wide standard, but called it a challenge.

“Fuel efficiency was, is and will be the major challenge in our industry,” he said, “and we are going to meet that challenge.”

Graves said he believes truck operators who purchase the more fuel-efficient vehicles when they start rolling off production lines in 2014 will see cost savings in two years or less.

“One of the key factors in payback is predicting what the price of fuel is going to be,” Graves said. “If the original estimates are in the ballpark, there is probably an 18 to 24 month ROI [return on investment] on acquiring the new equipment. If fuel prices spike beyond what we anticipate, it could be even sooner than that.”

Will the trucks cost businesses more up front?  Maybe.

“It’s absolutely too early to tell because we are three to six years ahead of introducing these [trucks],” said Daum. “We try to make [sticker prices] as neutral as possible. … If a customer saves $2,000 a year in fuel, then he’s willing to pay for that. If he saves very little, then we can’t ask as much.”

Last month, Obama announced new fuel standards for cars and light-duty trucks, setting a 54.5 miles-per-gallon standard by model year 2025.

“While we were working to improve the efficiency of cars and light-duty trucks, something interesting happened,” Obama said in a statement.  “We started getting letters asking that we do the same for medium and heavy-duty trucks.  They were from the people who build, buy, and drive these trucks, and today, I’m proud to have the support of these companies.”

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