President Obama has directed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Dept. of Transportation to create a first-ever national policy to increase fuel economy and likewise decrease greenhouse-gas emissions for medium- and heavy-duty trucks.

Fuel-economy regulations are coming for heavy construction trucks.
Photo: Dawes Rigging & Crane Rental Inc.
Fuel-economy regulations are coming for heavy construction trucks.

This new directive, signed on May 21 and impacting model years 2014-2018, comes about a month after EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) had finalized similar rules for passenger cars and light trucks that will be manufactured in 2012-2016.

Large trucks consume more than 2 million barrels of oil every day and average 6.1 miles per gallon, according to the government. They emit 20% of the greenhouse-gas pollution related to transportation. Tractor-trailer trucks, in particular, put out half of the greenhouse gas emitted by large work vehicles.

Whatever standards the EPA and NHTSA create for medium- and heavy-duty work trucks, they will likely be based at least in part on a recent study from the National Research Council (NRC), which looked at regulations for large trucks, namely, Class 2b heavy pickup trucks to Class 8 heavy vehicles like dump trucks and tractor-trailer rigs.

The President’s announcement didn’t specify a timetable for EPA and NHTSA to finalize the new rules, but it took the two government agencies about a year to finalize similar rules for passenger cars and light trucks.

Truck manufacturers may seek guidance from EPA and NHTSA by the end of this year so they can retool in time for the 2014 model year, says Andrew Brown Jr., director of technology at automotive supplier Delphi Corp. and chairman of the NRC study.

The changes required to meet the new fuel-economy regulations could add as much as $15,000 to the price of a new heavy-duty pickup truck or as much as $85,000 to the cost of a new Class 8 truck tractor, the report noted. The added fuel efficiency is expected to pay off over the life of the vehicle.

Obama also has directed the Dept. of Energy to increase support for advanced vehicles, including those that are powered electrically.