Are Higher Fuel Efficiency Standards For Large Trucks Good For Business?

Both fleet operators and consumers agree: it’s in everyone’s best interest for the EPA to increase fuel efficiency standards for large trucks.

For both groups, cutting back on carbon emissions isn’t the key factor driving this attitude. It’s money.

That is, this is what two new studies have determined.

Data from two the new studies demonstrates how increasing the fuel efficiency of large trucks – including big rigs and heavy-duty fleet vehicles – saves fleet owners as much as $20,000 per truck per year. This savings translates to lower prices for household products that depend on these trucks to reach their destination.

The first study, commissioned by clean transportation industry group CALSTART, surveyed people that own and operate fleets of large trucks. Its members include delivery companies like UPS and FedEx, automakers such as GM and Volvo, and other companies that manage nationwide fleets of heavy-duty trucks.

“Our business case modeling approach was developed with fleet owners and operators who are on the front line of this issue. And based on our survey, they believe that investing in more fuel-efficient trucks up front can be good for business in the long run,” said Bill Van Amburg, Senior Vice President of CALSTART.

To create its estimates, CALSTART assumed a 40 percent boost in fuel economy. Actual costs savings depend on the size of the truck, but even smaller vehicles will see a benefit. Results from the study, separated by type of vehicle, include:

Long-distance big rigs: “Switching to more fuel-efficient trucks could save up to $20,000 per year per truck, with a payback period for the extra investment in more fuel-efficient technology of as little as nine months.”

Utility trucks with higher idling times: “Utility trucks could see fuel cost savings of up to $9,000 per year per truck, and that some fuel-saving technologies – including plug-in hybrids and engine configurations that allow for ‘engine-off’ mode while driving – could deliver payback within 3.5 years.”

Smaller fleet trucks, such as gasoline-powered pickups and cargo vans: This group “could see fuel cost savings of $1,600 per year per vehicle, with a break-even point for extra money spent on a more efficient vehicle of 1.3 years.”

Though the initial cost to buy a more efficient truck is significantly higher than a conventional option, 89 percent of fleet managers “said they would be willing to pay a higher upfront cost as long as there will be cost savings over the life of the vehicle,” reported CALSTART.

“Fleet managers support improved fuel efficiency in their vehicles, but they also have to account for any increased purchase costs, as well as be aware of any potential increase in maintenance costs,” said Phillip E. Russo, chief executive officer of NAFA Fleet Management Association, which collaborated with CALSTART to gather feedback from fleets for the report. “By showing fleets that fuel efficiency savings may exceed any additional upfront costs for efficient new vehicles, this report addresses head-on one of the primary concerns the industry has had about boosting fuel efficiency.”

SEE ALSO: Proposed EPA Truck Rules Promised To Cut 1 Billion Tons of CO2; 1 Year’s Worth of OPEC Imports

A separate survey, this one conducted by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA), found that over 90 percent of consumers “understand that ‘some, most, or all’ of the fuel costs of heavy-duty trucks, which transport virtually every consumer good, are passed on to consumers.”

And more than 70 percent of consumers support an increase in fuel efficiency standards for large trucks, according the survey.

“When it comes to goods and services, the American consumer really does ‘pay the freight,’” said CFA’s director of public affairs and vehicle expert Jack Gillis. “More than $1,100 of the cost of the everyday goods and services households buy annually goes to pay for the fuel used to transport those goods and services.

“From a household energy expense perspective, the amount consumers pay for truck fuel is almost as much as they spend for home electricity and about half of what a typical household pays for gasoline.”

Earlier this summer, the EPA issued a proposal to increase fuel economy in large trucks by up to 40 percent by 2027, in comparison to 2010 levels. This would raise the average fuel economy of a big rig from about 6 mpg to 9 mpg.