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Obama Wants Tougher Fuel Standards For Big Trucks

Exhausts rises from a truck in California last September.
Mike Blake
Exhausts rises from a truck in California last September.

President Obama said Tuesday that he has told the Environmental Protection Agency to work with the Department of Transportation on a second round of regulations to improve the fuel efficiency of medium- and heavy-duty trucks. The goal: reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions they contribute to the environment.

The tighter standards would affect vehicles built after the model year 2018 and would apply to trucks that weigh more than 8,500 pounds. That group can include some popular pickups built by Chrysler, Ford, GM and other automakers — as well as sanitation trucks, delivery vehicles and the trailer-tractors that haul cargo up and down the nation's highways.

The White House says the rules already put into effect have saved truckers money: "By model year 2018, an operator of a new semi truck could pay for the technology upgrades in under a year and realize net savings of $73,000 through reduced fuel costs over the truck's useful life," it states in a report on the initiatives.

Tightening standards further will eventually save truckers even more, Obama said.

But as The New York Times notes, "United States car and truck manufacturers have lobbied heavily against aggressive increases in federal fuel economy standards, saying that they could increase vehicle prices and diminish safety" if efforts to reduce the vehicles' weight forces compromises.

The White House did not lay out specifics. Instead, it said the president wants EPA and Transportation to develop the tighter standards by March 2016.

According to the White House, "in 2010, heavy-duty vehicles represented just four percent of registered vehicles on the road in the United States, but they accounted for approximately 25 percent of on-road fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector."

At an event Tuesday in Maryland, The Associated Press writes, "Obama said helping these vehicles use less fuel would have the triple benefit of making the U.S. less dependent on imported oil, keeping more money in consumer pockets and reducing the greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming. 'It's not just a win win. It's a win, win, win," the president said.

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Mark Memmott
Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.
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