President Obama is expected to soon add emission rules for big-rig trucks to a growing list of regulations to combat the threat of climate change.
The president directed the Environmental Protection Agency to develop new rules for heavy-duty trucks to make them more fuel efficient, while lowering their carbon dioxide emissions to lessen the effects of global warming.
The rules will not only regulate the truck and the engine, but are also expected to add new efficiency and emission regulations for trailers that large tractor-trailer trucks haul. One official says it will be a "big rule" that comprises so many components of large trucks that it could easily be broken down into several separate regulations.
The new heavy-duty truck rules will add to the administration's list of EPA regulations meant to combat greenhouse gas emissions, which includes the hotly contested emission rules for existing power plants, known as the Clean Power Plan. The president has made reducing the effects of emissions on the climate a key part of his second-term agenda. The emissions are considered by many scientists to be a key contributor to manmade global warming.
Both the power plant rule and the forthcoming truck regulations are part of the president's 2013 Climate Action Plan to reduce carbon emissions 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020.
The truck regulations will build upon the first-ever rules that EPA finalized for the heavy-duty sector in 2011 for vehicle model years 2014-2018.
The new rules will be for "post-2018" model years that will seek to reduce petroleum consumption by more than 530 million barrels of oil projected by the first rule, according to the White House. It also will reduce carbon emissions beyond the 270 million metric tons projected under the first standards. The details of the rules have not been disclosed.
The New York Times reported over the weekend that the EPA will announce the new, more stringent trucking rules this week. But industry observers suggest it will take a little more time to roll out the rules than the Times reported.
An EPA spokesman said the rules are still undergoing pre-publication review at the White House and will be issued once that process is complete.
Observers suggest the EPA will take its time issuing the truck standards after the heavy lift of re-proposing the agency's Renewable Fuel Standard and finalizing a controversial regulation for waterways last week.
The proposed rule is also expected to have a different level of stringency and costs than what was outlined by the Times' article, says an industry official. The Times reported that EPA "is expected to propose regulations to cut greenhouse gas emissions from heavy-duty trucks, requiring that their fuel economy increase up to 40 percent by 2027, compared with levels in 2010."
Glen Kedzie, energy and environmental counsel for the American Truck Associations, said he couldn't say what the efficiency rating will ultimately be, but contended that the EPA has done unprecedented outreach, "a lot more than I have ever seen on a rule," to get the rule right.
Nevertheless, the regulations are major in scope and could have major implications for the industry, Kedzie said.
One of the biggest changes in the rule will be the regulation of trailers, which is a part of the truck that has not been regulated by the EPA before and is a step removed from the agency's primary focus of vehicles with engines.
Kedzie said the EPA is trying to strike a balance among efficiency, emission improvements and the economy. He said truck fleets aren't the same as regulating passenger vehicles, "a truck is a mobile office…, [a] cog to keep this economy moving along." EPA is "dealing with this economic aspect here," where they have to be careful not to make the standards cost prohibitive, Kedzie said.