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Fewer Emissions from Trucks Equals More Money in Your Pocket. Here’s Why.

mathers-jasonLike most Americans, I’ve bought a few things over the past week: a few shrubs to plant in the backyard, brake cables for my bike and some odds and ends for the new baby we’re expecting in a few weeks.

Each of these items got most of the way to me by riding in the back of a diesel-guzzling tractor-trailer.

Trucks are the main way goods move to market in our country today; 69 percent of freight was carried this way in 2014.  Trucking dominates because it is fast, safe, reliable and affordable.

What it’s not – yet – is very fuel-efficient.

The average tractor trailer truck today will burn 20,000 gallons of diesel this year alone – the same volume of fuel used by 50 new passenger cars. Fuel is a top cost for trucking and we pay for it through our everyday purchases.

At the same time, heavy-duty trucks – while making up only 4 percent of registered vehicles – account for 25 percent of vehicle fuel use.

This is why the Obama administration, with important business support, is taking action to tighten fuel-efficiency for heavy-duty vehicles in standards expected to be proposed in the next month.

Trucks spend $135B per year on fuel

The average US household pays more than $1,100 a year to fuel heavy trucks. That is a lot of money for my family, especially with a second college fund now needed, and it probably is a fair amount for your family, too.

Across our country, the total financial bill exceeds $135 billion annually – and that is in addition to a significant and growing environmental cost.

Every year, our nation’s fleet of big trucks emits the same amount of carbon dioxide as do 130 coal plants. Climate pollution from these trucks is growing fast.

A recent assessment from the US Energy Information Agency projected that greenhouse gas emissions from heavy trucks will increase more than any other single end-use source by 2040.

This is because increased demand for trucking services is projected to greatly exceed improvements in fuel efficiency. Without action, producing and burning fuel in these trucks will account for nearly 30 percent of transportation related greenhouse gas emissions in 2040.

$400 in annual household savings

President Obama’s call in early 2014 for a new round of fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standards for our nation’s biggest trucks is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to dramatically alter course.

Jason Mathers
Jason is a senior manager at the Environmental Defense Fund's Corporate Partnerships program. He works in EDF's Boston office.
 
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