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June 12, 2014

Time to Act on Trucks: We can reduce new truck fuel consumption 40% by 2025

Truck image 40 percent textToday medium and heavy-duty vehicles - everything from delivery trucks to tractor trailers - represent one of the fastest growing sources of oil use in the transportation sector. Though our passenger cars have grown more efficient in recent years, the average tractor-trailer gets around six miles per gallon on the road, the same as it has for decades.

The Obama administration has an opportunity to propose strong efficiency standards for medium and heavy duty vehicles that can reduce new truck fuel consumption 40 percent by 2025. These standards will cut carbon pollution, reduce oil use, and save drivers money at the pump.

According to  a new factsheet released today by the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense Fund, and the American Council for and Energy-Efficient Economy, we have the technology to cost-effectively reduce new truck fuel consumption 40 percent by 2025.

Tractor-trailers, responsible for two-thirds of medium and heavy-duty vehicle fuel use, can reduce fuel use 46 percent, with fuel savings paying for new technology in just over one year. Increasing the average fuel efficiency of a tractor-trailer from nearly six miles per gallon to nearly 11 miles per gallon would significantly reduce oil use in the transportation sector. Similarly, vocational vehicles, such as delivery trucks, and heavy-duty pickup trucks have opportunities to reduce fuel use 32 percent and 28 percent, respectively.

Strong standards will reduce oil consumption. In 2012, trucks on the road consumed roughly 2.7 million barrels of fuel each day, resulting in 530 million metric tons of carbon pollution. Setting strong standards that build on existing standards could cut fuel use by 1.4 million barrels per day - roughly equivalent to our oil imports from Venezuela and Iraq in 2011 combined.

Thanks to innovation by countries in the United States and around the world, we have the technology to increase fuel efficiency and reduce carbon pollution. From aerodynamics to automated manual transmissions and turbocharged engines, a wide range of technologies can be employed in the coming years. These technologies will save drivers money at the pump, including an estimated $30,000 in fuel savings per year for average tractor-trailer owners.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are currently developing proposed standards for medium and heavy-duty vehicles, which they are expected to release in March of 2015. We know that one effective way to reduce oil use and cut carbon pollution is to set strong standards for medium and heavy-duty vehicles. Now it’s time for the Obama administration to act on trucks.

-- Jesse Prentice-Dunn, Sierra Club

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