A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for Phase 2 of the federal GHG/MPG rules has been forwarded to the Office of Management and Budget for formal review. At the moment, the NPRM is slated to be published in the Federal Register sometime in June. With that notice, a period for public comment on the rule will be announced.

Formally entitled “Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Fuel Efficiency Standards for Medium- and Heavy-Duty Engines and Vehicles — Phase 2,” the new rule is being promulgated by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Transportation Safety Administration and will impact new medium- and heavy-duty vehicles of “model years beyond 2018.”

Once the NPRM’s public-comment phase closes, EPA and DOT will have to jointly complete the rulemaking. Then OMB will have to sign off on the Final Rule before it is published along with its implementation date.

Despite the new rule not taking effect for close to five years from now, Phase 2 was a hot topic for industry suppliers during media briefings at last week’s Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, KY.

That’s because implementation of this next rule to further reduce the greenhouse gas emissions and fuel consumption of medium- and heavy-duty trucks promises to greatly enhance the fuel efficiency of commercial vehicles by the end of this decade— without requiring manufacturers to implement specific technologies.

Phase 2 will impose stricter GHG limits and MPG standards than did the Phase 1 rule, which was issued in 2011 and applies to trucks manufactured for model years 2014 through 2018. Phase 1 focused on boosting fuel efficiency, and thus reducing GHG, by refining tractors and their engines.

According to EPA, the rationale for Phase 2 is clear as a blue sky: “GHG emissions from this sector are forecast to continue increasing rapidly; reflecting the anticipated impact of factors such as economic growth and increased movement of freight by trucks. This rulemaking would significantly reduce GHG emissions from future medium- and heavy-duty vehicles by setting GHG standards that will lead to the introduction of GHG reducing vehicle and engine technologies.”

In its current “proposal” state, the rule is vaguely worded. EPA has indicated merely that it “will include an evaluation of regulatory alternatives.” However, it has previously been reported by HDT that under Phase 2, EPA and NHTSA will assess trailer aerodynamics as well as engine and powertrain improvements, weight reduction, tires, automatic engine shutdown systems, water pumps, fans and other accessories, and even consider hybrid technologies.

On the other hand, EPA has also stated that “the proposal is expected to include tools such as averaging, banking, and trading of emissions credits as an alternative approach for compliance with the proposed program.”

For truck builders and engine makers as well as suppliers of any component or device that can help cut GHG and boost MPG, the sooner the final Phase 2 rule is issued, the better. Only when they can read the specifics, can they determine what combination of solutions they will deploy to meet the requirements for the specific vehicle types covered by the tighter rule.

Indeed, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy pointed out on March 30, when interviewed live by Politico, that the Phase 2 wording will communicate “long-term market signals” on the technologies that EPA and NHTSA expect will come into play to meet the rule.

For their part, during the Mid-America Trucking Show, truck builders signaled their strong preference for the Phase 2 rule to require a “complete vehicle standard” instead of the engine-only standard put forth by the Phase 1 rule. Taking the entire vehicle’s impact into account would allow truck builder to leverage the increasing contribution being made to aerodynamics and weight reduction by various trailer-specific technologies.

Referring to the Phase I rule, Martin Daum, president and CEO of Daimler Trucks North America, noted during a MATS media briefing that DTNA aims to be the first OEM to attain certification to the GHG2017 standards. Turning to Phase 2, he said that a complete vehicle standard was preferred and that it should incorporate a “test cycle that mimics the real world.”

He also pointed out that DTNA expects Phase 2 will take affect for model year “GHG20XX.” Regardless of when the rule kicks in, Daum said that total cost of ownership should be addressed by incorporating “mature and feasible technologies [that] meet customer expectations of an 18- to 24-month payback "We need smart regulations that should support and foster free markets, and fuel efficiency is something where I want a lot of variables we can optimize,” he explained.

Olof Persson, president and CEO of Volvo Group, parent of Volvo Trucks North America and Mack Trucks, also endorsed Phase 2 being based solely on a complete vehicle standard during his address to HDMA at MATS.  “First of all,” he said, “a separate engine standard would be redundant, since the engine would be accounted for in the complete vehicle assessment. And the last time I looked, there were no loose engines pulling freight down American highways.

“But more important than redundancy,” he continued, “an engine standard– particularly if it’s stringent – could force the use of technologies that could bring seriously negative consequences for our customers, in terms of cost, weight, space, cooling, and so on.”

Perrson cautioned that “If reason does not prevail [with Phase 2], the industry could be faced with a mandate for increased engine efficiency that actually reduces total vehicle efficiency in real-world conditions.  That would obviously be a loss not just for truck customers, but for society and the environment.”

Also at MATS, Preston Feight, general manager of Kenworth Truck Co. and vice president of Paccar, told HDT that he expects the Phase 2 rule “will kick in for the 2020 model year” and that the OEM “views the rule as an opportunity. GHG reduction [from trucks] will pay a benefit for our customers as it will increase miles per gallon.

“What’s still up in the air,” Feight added, “is whether this time there will be a comprehensive vehicle regulation, which would include the trailer’s contribution” to fuel efficiency.

About the author
David Cullen

David Cullen

[Former] Business/Washington Contributing Editor

David Cullen comments on the positive and negative factors impacting trucking – from the latest government regulations and policy initiatives coming out of Washington DC to the array of business and societal pressures that also determine what truck-fleet managers must do to ensure their operations keep on driving ahead.

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