The docket is now open for comments on the federal proposal to establish national standards for fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions for medium and heavy trucks.

On Tuesday the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration published their joint proposal, which will establish a new way to measure truck fuel efficiency and emissions and set industry performance standards.

Comments on the proposal, which was published in the November 30 Federal Register, are due by January 31.

Under the proposal, EPA's greenhouse gas standards will begin in model year 2014, and NHTSA's fuel economy standards will start with voluntary compliance in model years 2014 and 2015, and become mandatory in 2016 for most types of vehicles. Trailers are not covered by this proposal but the agencies are considering including them in future proposals.

In recognition of the variety and complexity of trucking operations, the standards will be based on the work the truck does - gallons per ton-mile and grams of carbon dioxide per ton-mile, rather than the traditional miles per gallon and grams per brake horsepower hour.

The standards, which will vary among truck and engine types, will achieve fuel and emissions savings between 7 and 20 percent between 2010 and 2017, the agencies said. These gains will mainly be achieved through improvements to engines, tires, the aerodynamics of the truck and reduced idling - technologies that have been proven through the EPA's SmartWay program.

Early reaction to the proposal from the industry has generally been positive. A first read leads to the conclusion that the agencies have adopted a workable approach for the trucking industry, said Glenn Kedzie, vice president and environmental counsel for American Trucking Associations.
There are concerns, Kedzie added, not the least of which is a potential conflict between what the federal government is proposing and what California is doing. "We don't want a patchwork, a California approach and a federal approach," he said.

For more details, see the December issue of Heavy Duty Trucking.