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New fuel economy standards for big rigs, fire engines, and work trucks

Consumer Reports News: August 09, 2011 03:53 PM

This morning at a Virginia moving company, President Obama announced the first-ever fuel economy standards for heavy-duty trucks, including everything from semi-trucks to city buses to cement mixers.

Most importantly for consumers, the move will require so-called medium-duty trucks, such as the three ¾-ton diesel pickups we tested in September issue, and commercial vans to get 12-percent better fuel economy if they run on gasoline and 17-percent better if they run on diesel. Along with contractors and landscapers, consumers use such trucks, especially diesel versions, to haul heavy RVs, boats, horses, or car trailers.

The new standards take effect in 2014 and run through 2018. In that time frame, they require semi-truck fuel economy to improve by 23 percent and so-called “vocational vehicles”--buses, fire engines, and cement mixers--to get 10-percent more efficient. A fully loaded tractor-trailer today gets about 5 to 7 mpg, according to the Diesel Technology Forum, so the improvement would add about 1 mpg. Trucks currently consume about 22 billion gallons of diesel fuel annually. Officials estimated the moves will save 530 million barrels of oil over the life of the program.

The biggest gains are expected from tractor-trailer trucks, which account for 65 percent of the fuel consumed in heavy-duty trucks.

The government estimates the standards will boost the price of such trucks by an average of $6,200. But long-haul truckers, who burn fuel constantly, could save up to $73,000 in fuel costs over the life of the truck.

The program includes special incentives for diesel hybrid trucks and other technologies. The standards are written to limit both CO2 emissions and fuel consumption per 1,000 ton miles (the gallons needed to move 10 tons 100 miles), so they affect heavier vehicles differently than lighter ones.

The standards are expected to ramp up even further after 2018. Read the rule (pdf).

Related:
Government to raise fuel economy standards to 54.5 mpg by 2025
Tomorrow's 56.2-mpg technology showcased today in Toyota Highlander Hybrid
Guide to alternative fuels
Guide to fuel economy

Eric Evarts

   

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