Fuel economy standard for work trucks edges closer

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration continues to consider setting fuel economy standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks.

Last week NHTSA announced plans to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to analyze the potential environmental impacts of the agency's new fuel efficiency improvement program for commercial medium- and heavy-duty on-highway vehicles and work trucks.

The EIS will consider the potential environmental impacts of new standards starting with model year (MY) 2016 MD/HD vehicles. NHTSA is inviting comments to help identify the environmental issues and reasonable alternatives to be examined in the EIS. Comments should be submitted by July 14.

NHTSA is considering a series of options, including one that would apply to tractors and trailers. The options are:

• Alternative 1: No action. A ``no action'' alternative assumes that NHTSA would not issue a rule regarding a MD/HD fuel efficiency improvement program.

• Alternative 2: Engine only. Under Alternative 2, NHTSA would set engine performance standards for each vehicle class, Class 2b through Class 8, and would specify an engine cell test procedure, as EPA currently does for criteria pollutants. Vehicle engine manufacturers would be responsible for ensuring that each engine meet the applicable vehicle class engine performance standard.

Alternative 3: Class 8 combination tractors. Under Alternative 3, NHTSA would set an engine performance standard, as discussed under Alternative 2, for Class 8 vehicles. In addition, Class 8 combination tractor manufacturers would be required to meet an overall vehicle performance standard by making various non-engine fuel saving technology improvements. These non-engine fuel efficiency improvements could be accomplished, for example, by a combination of improvements to aerodynamics, lowering tire rolling resistance, decreasing vehicle mass (weight), reducing fuel use at idle, or by adding intelligent vehicle technologies.

This compliance approach would have the Class 8 vehicle manufacturer supply certain vehicle characteristics, and NHTSA would supply a standard Class 8 vehicle engine’s contribution to overall vehicle efficiency. The chassis manufacturer could provide fuel efficiency improvements to non-engine vehicle components.

(4) Alternative 4: Engines, tractors, and Class 2b through 8 trucks. This alternative would set engine fuel efficiency performance standards and overall vehicle fuel efficiency performance standards for Class 2b and 3 work trucks and Class 3 through Class 8 vocational trucks. This alternative essentially sets fuel efficiency performance standards for both the engines and the overall vehicles in the entire medium- and heavy-duty truck sector.

5) Alternative 5: Engines, tractors, trucks, and trailers. This alternative adds a performance standard for fuel efficiency of commercial trailers to the fuel efficiency performance standards for Class 2b and 3 work truck and Class 3 through Class 8 vocational truck engines and the performance standard for the overall fuel efficiency of those vehicles, as described above.

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