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  • America sets the bar high on lorry emissions

    The United States has set new standards for carbon dioxide emissions from lorries, which are sufficiently ambitious to threaten to leave Europe’s truck-making industry behind. The International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) described the new standards as ‘a big win-win’ for their potential to cut both costs and greenhouse gases, while T&E said they were ‘as much about environmental leadership as about innovation’.

    The new standards are the second phase of Barack Obama’s climate action plan for trucks. The first phase was finalised in 2011 and came into effect for 2014’s new vehicles. The second phase has now been agreed by two leading US government agencies – the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – and will apply to new vehicles from 2021. For the first time, trailers are covered by fuel efficiency standards, along with engines.

    The standards are expected to lower CO2 emissions by about 1.1 billion tonnes, save vehicle owners around $170 billion (€152 billion) in fuel costs, and prevent up to 2 billion barrels of oil being consumed over the next 10 years. In relative terms, it means US lorries will produce 10% less CO2 and consume 10% less fuel by 2027 than they do now.

    More importantly, the fuel savings caused by meeting the new standards will exceed the costs of the necessary technology, enabling truck buyers to cover the additional costs within two years, the EPA said. On average, fuel bills represent one-third of the operating costs of running a fleet of lorries in Europe. The two agencies calculate that the benefits outweigh the costs by a ratio of about 8 to 1.

    The ICCT said the new standards were ‘a big win-win on big trucks’. An ICCT statement said: ‘The agencies are to be commended for a very rigorous stakeholder engagement and regulatory development process, which has produced the most comprehensive and technically ambitious regulation for commercial vehicle efficiency in the world. This far-sighted regulation will continue to drive the development and deployment of cost-effective fuel-saving technologies.’

    T&E welcomed the standards and said they presented a big challenge to the EU. T&E’s clean trucks officer Stef Cornelis said: ‘Having already proven that standards are an effective tool for tackling trucks’ emissions, the US is again showing leadership and vision on the ever-growing climate problem of transporting goods by road. This is a wake-up call to European lawmakers who have said they will regulate truck CO2 emissions – they now need to take ambitious action or we will see American lorries overtake European ones on clean technology.’

    Industry, environmental groups and other stakeholders have been given 60 days to comment on the rules, which regulators are expected to finalise early in 2017.