Departments - Regulations

September 22, 2015

Greenhouse gas, fuel efficiency standards for big trucks

The Obama administration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the U.S. Transportation Department have issued proposed climate change regulations for semi-trucks, large pickups, vans, and all types of buses and work trucks. The EPA, in conjunction with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), is expected to release a final version of the rule in 2016.

The new rule will apply to trucks built from 2019 to 2027 to achieve reductions of 1 billion tons of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and save about 1.8 billion barrels of oil and $170 billion in fuel costs. These reductions are nearly equal to the GHG emissions associated with energy use by all U.S. residences in one year.

EPA officials estimate that requiring truck manufacturers to increase their fuel efficiency by about a third will cost $10,000 to $12,000 per vehicle for the largest trucks. The proposed standards do not mandate the use of specific technologies, rather they establish standards achievable through a range of technology options.

“The beauty of the proposal is that the cost of the necessary improvements, which are generally off-the-shelf technologies, will be paid for by the savings associated with the increased fuel efficiency – about one-third better than today – in a matter of a couple years,” says William Becker, director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies.

The trucking industry is somewhat divided over the coming regulations. Some manufacturers say they will be able to adapt to the new standards, but others say it will require expensive new technology and may pose a challenge.

“We believe this rule could result in the deployment of certain technologies that do not fully recognize the diversity of our industry and could prove to be unreliable. This unreliability could slow not only adoption of these technologies, but the environment benefits they aim to create,” says ATA Vice President and Energy and Environmental Counsel Glen Kedzie. “To prevent this, truck and engine manufacturers will need adequate time to develop solutions to meet these new standards.”

The Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association (EMA) continues to support efforts to assure that the EPA and DOT coordinate efforts and propose a single, national GHG reduction and fuel efficiency improvement program.

“The Phase II EPA and DOT proposal is intended to build on the principles and strengths of the Phase I regulations. We will review the proposal to ensure that it provides adequate lead time, assures regulatory compatibility with the commercial engine and vehicle marketplace, utilizes proven effective technologies, and avoids potential unintended consequences,” says Jed Mandel, EMA president.

A public comment period will be open for 60 days after the proposal is published in the Federal Register. In addition, EPA and NHTSA will host two public hearings and continue an open-door policy of meeting with stakeholders over the course of the comment period.;;;


Proposed Federal emissions standards for commercial vehicles

Combination tractors
Class 7 and Class 8 regulations would start in model year (MY) 2021, increase incrementally in MY 2024, and phase in completely by MY 2027. Standards differ by vehicle weight class, roof height, and cab type (sleeper or day). By MY 2027, CO2 emissions would fall by 24%.

Suggested technologies include:

  • Engine improvements
  • Transmission upgrades
  • Aerodynamics
  • Lower rolling resistance tires

Trailers pulled by combination tractors
Proposed standards would begin in MY 2018 for EPA’s standards, and would be voluntary for NHTSA from 2018 to 2020, with mandatory standards beginning in 2021. The standards increase in stringency in MYs 2021 and 2024, with a final 8% lower CO2 emission standard in MY 2027.

Standards would apply to:

  • Long (longer than 50ft) highway box trailers, dry vans
  • Long highway box trailers, refrigerated vans
  • Short (50ft and shorter) highway box trailers, dry vans
  • Short highway box trailers, refrigerated vans
  • Non-box highway trailers

Excluded from the trailer standards altogether are logging and mining trucks as well as mobile homes. Suggested technologies include:

  • Aerodynamic devices
  • Lower rolling resistance tires
  • Automatic tire inflation systems
  • Weight reduction

Vocational vehicles including buses, refuse trucks, and concrete mixers
Proposed standards use three vehicle weights and three driving cycles. The agencies are also proposing separate standards for emergency vehicles. The fully phased-in standards would achieve up to 16% reduction in CO2 emissions and fuel consumption.

Suggested technologies include:

  • Engine/transmission improvements
  • Lower rolling resistance tires
  • Idle/weight reduction

Heavy-duty pickups and vans
The average emission and fuel consumption rates applicable to each manufacturer depend on the manufacturer’s sales mix, with higher capacity vehicles (payload and towing) having less stringent targets. Proposed standards are a set of target standard curves, based on a work factor – a combination of payload, towing capabilities, and whether or not it has 4-wheel drive. The proposed standards would become 2.5% more stringent every year from model years 2021 to 2027. CO2 emissions and fuel consumption would improve by 16%.

Suggested technologies include:

  • Engine improvements
  • Transmission upgrades
  • Lower rolling resistance tires
  • Engine stop start
  • Powertrain hybridization


FCA US agrees to NHTSA consent decree

FCA US has agreed to pay $105 million in fines, vehicle fixes, and vehicle buybacks for cars and trucks that were recalled but not repaired quickly. The agreement with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also calls for the maker of Jeep, Chrysler, Dodge, Ram, Fiat, and Alfa Romeo vehicles to retain an independent monitor to track its recall compliance in the future.

“Today’s action holds Fiat Chrysler accountable for its past failures, pushes them to get unsafe vehicles repaired or off the roads, and takes concrete steps to keep Americans safer going forward,” says Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “This civil penalty puts manufacturers on notice that the Department will act when they do not take their obligations to repair safety defects seriously.”

In the decree, FCA agrees that it failed to notify owners quickly about three truck recalls for the Ram line and that it failed to repair the trucks quickly. The $105 million penalty includes $85 million in payments to federal agencies and $20 million to be used for repairs or to buy back trucks that have not yet been fixed. Officials with the automaker estimate that 60% of the vehicles have been repaired. Customers who opt for a buyout will get the face value of the truck, minus deprecation plus 10%.

“While such amounts may exceed the $20 million, contrary to certain reports, FCA US does not expect that the net cost of providing these additional alternatives will be material to its financial position, liquidity, or results of operations,” officials with the automaker say.;

Three Ram truck recalls

  • 2008 through 2012 chassis cab
  • 2009 through 2011 light duty
  • 2008 through 2012 heavy duty


Rear-underride trailer system rules

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has released an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) that is the first step to upgrade the standards for truck and trailer underride crash protection. The ANPRM focuses on rear underride crash protection and visibility of single unit trucks.

NHTSA estimates that a requirement for rear impact guards on single unit trucks (SUTs) could save five lives and prevent 30 injuries each year, and would cost approximately $669 million to equip approximately 342,000 vehicles. A requirement for reflective tape on SUTs could save up to 14 lives per year with a cost of approximately $30 million annually, for approximately 579,000 new SUTs.

“If we can raise the public’s awareness of large trucks and help trucks be more visible to others on the road, we can reduce the number of fatalities and injuries in underride crashes – or prevent these crashes from happening in the first place,” says NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind.

The agency is requesting comments about requirements for rear impact guards on new SUTs and reflective material on the rear and sides of these vehicles. Rear impact guards would provide underride protection to occupants of vehicles crashing into the rear of trucks and reflective material would improve visibility of these vehicles to other motorists and help drivers avoid these crashes in the first place.

Single unit trucks are trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating greater than 10,000 lb with no trailer. They’re primarily straight trucks, in which the engine, cab, drive train, and cargo area are mounted on one chassis. SUTs are often designed to perform a specific task. Common examples of SUTs are dump trucks, garbage haulers, concrete mixers, tank trucks, trash trucks, and local delivery trucks.

To download the proposed rear underride protection rules, visit