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Semi-truck

Food Companies, Retailers Urge Stricter Big Rig Emissions Rules

Semi-truckThe EPA and US Department of Transportation’s proposed rules to cut carbon pollution from heavy-duty trucks should be stricter, according to a dozen major food and retail companies.

In a letter to the agencies about the standards, executives from General Mills, Ben & Jerry’s, Patagonia Stonyfield Farms and nine other major companies say they support a 40 percent reduction in fuel use below 2010 levels by 2025.

The federal proposal would result in a 36 percent reduction by 2027.

Sustainability advocacy group Ceres organized the letter.

Ceres’ Businesses for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy (BICEP) initiative, a coalition of major businesses, last year wrote to the agencies asking them to strengthen the proposed standards to require a 40 percent reduction in fuel consumption by 2025.

The federal agencies adopted the first-ever standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles and engines built for model years 2014 to 2018 — the so-called phase 1 standards — in 2011. Last summer they released the phase 2 standards for trucks beginning with model year 2019 that would achieve emissions cuts through new technologies.

The feds say the standards they will lower CO2 emissions by about 1 billion metric tons, cut fuel costs by about $170 billion, and reduce oil consumption by up to 1.8 billion barrels over the lifetime of the vehicles sold under the program. The agencies also say the proposed standards will save fleet owners’ money; the buyer of a new long-haul truck in 2027 would recoup the investment in fuel-efficient technology in less than two years through fuel savings.

But the big rig rules could provide even greater fuel savings, according to the companies that signed the letter, which say they represent more than half a billion freight miles driven annually.

“Shippers already spend $650 billion a year on trucking services, and fuel costs account for 39 percent of the per mile cost of owning and operating a truck. As compared to the proposed standards, a 40 percent reduction in fuel use would cut an additional 200,000 barrels of oil daily in 2035 and provide 33 percent more in fuel cost savings,” the letter says. “Strong efficiency standards for heavy trucks will help our companies avoid billions of dollars in fuel costs…”

The American Trucking Associations supported the phase 1 truck standards and supports the second round of fuel efficiency rules as well — but it’s not endorsing phase 2 yet, says ATA vice president and energy and environmental counsel Glen Kedzie. He says the industry association is concerned that the final rule may require trucks to use certain technologies before they have been fully tested. New technologies also have higher price tags and this places additional financial stress on trucking companies, 96 percent of which are small businesses, Kedzie says.

“We are concerned about technology-forcing standards because if we are put in a position to adopt technologies that are not tested adequately, then it tends to disrupt fleet operations with respect to breakdowns, down time, additional towing situations and parts replacement,” Kedzie said in an interview.

Trucking companies are also facing increased driver pay and insurance premiums, and they are concerned about being able to afford the new technologies, as well as maintenance costs associated with them.

Kedzie says fuel is typically a fleet’s first or second largest operating expense and most fleets seek a return on their investment in new equipment within 18 to 24 months.

“In 2014, trucking spent nearly $150 billion on diesel fuel alone,” Kedzie says. “So the potential for real cost savings and associated environmental benefits of this rule are there — but fleets will need a wide variety of proven and durable technologies to meet these new standards.”

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