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The Source for Public Transportation News and Analysis August 12, 2011
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New Fuel Savings Standards for Buses

President Obama announced new fuel efficiency standards Aug. 9 that will save American businesses that operate and own commercial vehicles approximately $50 billion in fuel costs over the life of the program. These work trucks, buses, and other medium- and heavy-duty vehicles will be required to meet fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emission standards for the first time ever beginning in 2014.

DOT and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed the standards in close coordination with the companies that met with the president as well as other stakeholders, following requests from companies to create this program.

Under the comprehensive new national program, buses and trucks built from 2014 through 2018 will reduce oil consumption by a projected 530 million barrels and greenhouse gas pollution by approximately 270 million metric tons. Like the administration’s car standards, this program—which, according to the administration, relies heavily on off-the-shelf technologies—was developed in coordination with truck and engine manufacturers, fleet owners, the state of California, environmental groups, and other stakeholders. 

The joint DOT/EPA program will include a range of targets specific to the vehicle types and purposes. It divides vehicles into three major categories: combination tractors (semi-trucks), heavy-duty pickup trucks and vans, and vocational vehicles (including public transit buses and refuse trucks). Each of those categories contains even more specific targets based on the design and purpose of the vehicle. This flexible structure allows achievable fuel efficiency improvement goals charted for each year and for each vehicle category and type. The standards will also reduce emissions of harmful air pollutants that can lead to asthma, heart attacks, and premature death.

Beyond the direct benefits to businesses that own and operate these vehicles, in the long run the program will benefit consumers and businesses by reducing costs for transporting both people and goods, and spur growth in the clean energy sector by fostering innovative technologies and providing regulatory certainty for manufacturers.

Public transit industry experts note that these standards will clearly have an impact on bus manufacturers; key will be the costs involved in the required research and development. They add that the bus industry has been through several major engine changes in the last few years in the name of emissions and, while beneficial to the environment, each of these steps has been expensive. The industry looks forward to further guidance from DOT/EPA concerning test protocols and the establishment of baselines.
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