Trump Administration Rolling Back Freight Truck Standards that Save Money, Reduce Pollution

EPA and NHTSA plan to weaken critical health and environmental standards for freight trailers

August 17, 2017
Shira Langer, (202) 572-3254

In separate letters to the Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association today, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Acting Deputy Administrator Jack Danielson announced plans to weaken America’s Clean Freight Truck Standards, imperiling climate security and economic prosperity for our communities and families.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) announced formal steps to begin reconsidering the greenhouse gas pollution and fuel economy standards for our nation’s fleet of large trucks, focused on the standards for the freight trailers, which aimed to make heavy-duty tractor-trailers more efficient and less polluting. 

EPA and DOT’s plans to weaken the trailer standards are in capitulation to industry requests, ignoring the robust technical record confirming the cost effectiveness of pollution control technologies and efficiency standards for trailers, and the firm legal basis for these standards.

“Rolling back clean air and fuel efficiency standards for our nation’s freight haulers would cost consumers and truckers money and mean more harmful pollution for our communities and families. These common-sense standards reduce our country’s reliance on imported oil, save money and help keep Americans safe from the clear and present danger of climate change,” said EDF Attorney Alice Henderson.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation finalized the historic measures last October. The standards build on the success of the first ever heavy-duty fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions programs, which were finalized in 2011 with broad support from truck manufacturers, labor groups, consumers, security groups, and health and environmental organizations.

The standards apply to the freight trucks that transport the products we buy every day, as well as to buses and school buses, tractor-trailers, heavy-duty pickup trucks and vans, and garbage trucks. (They do not apply to passenger cars and light pickup trucks, which already have their own clean air and fuel efficiency standards.) These heavy-duty trucks use more than 125 million gallons of fuel every day and emit nearly 450 million metric tons of climate pollution annually. They are one of the fastest growing sources of climate-destabilizing pollution.

The Clean Trucks standards will dramatically reduce this pollution and provide cross-cutting benefits:

  • Reduce climate pollution by 1.1 billion tons
  • Reduce American fuel use by two billion barrels of oil over the lifetime of the trucks
  • Save truck owners $170 billion in fuel costs over the lifetime of their vehicles
  • Result in $230 billion in societal benefits over the life of the program

More than 300 companies called for strong truck standards during the rule making process, including PepsiCo and Walmart (two of the largest trucking fleets in the U.S.), mid-size trucking companies RFX Global and Dillon Transport, and large customers of trucking services General Mills, Campbell’s Soup, and IKEA. That’s largely becausefuel is the largest single cost for trucking fleets. The average semi truck today burns 20,000 gallons of diesel a year – the same volume of fuel used by 50 new passenger cars.

Strong standards, and the increased efficiency that the trailer standards provide, will also benefit American families, since some of the savings will be passed on to consumers. The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) found that rigorous fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards could save American households $250 annuallyin the near term, and $400 annuallyby 2035, on goods and services.

The Trump administration is also reviewing the Phase II Clean Cars standards for passenger cars and trucks.

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