With one of the largest medium- and heavy-duty fleets in the country, California stands to benefit the most from the federal government's proposed truck fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas reduction rules, a panel of federal officials was told on August 18.
The testimony was presented by Tom Fulks, representing the Diesel Technology Forum, to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration officials during the hearing on the proposed truck regulations in Long Beach.
"With one of the largest medium- and heavy-duty fleets in the country, California stands to benefit the most from these proposed Phase II rules," Fulks told the panel. "In California today there are 120,429 model year 2010-2014 heavy-duty (class 3 to 8) trucks in operation, making California number three nationwide in terms of total number of new technology diesel engines on the road. The benefits from these new technology clean diesel engines in Class 3 to 8 commercial vehicles in the state have eliminated 120,000 tons of NOx and 580,000 tons of carbon dioxide and saved 1.4 billion barrels of crude oil between 2010 and 2014, according to our most recent research.
"This new diesel technology is on the road today delivering real world benefits in the form of fuel savings and reducing carbon emissions. This year the American Lung Association, in its annual State of the Air Report identified cleaner diesel fleets as one of the two main contributors to helping the nation achieve cleaner air and meet the national ambient air quality standards.
"As recently stated by the California Air Resources Board, the further adoption of new and newer diesel engines in heavy-duty applications in California is expected to reduce emissions of oxides of nitrogen by 50% between 2012 and 2020," Fulks said during the hearing.
He added that while this proposed rule focuses on vehicle and engine standards, "in the context of efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, we believe that it is important to also note the benefits from changes to fuels. According to recent studies from the California Air Resources Board, use of renewable diesel fuels can reduce emissions of CO2 by 70%. Just last month, the City of San Francisco announced that renewable diesel fuel will power all city owned diesel vehicles and equipment by years' end."
To Be Successful New Truck Rules Must Be Uniform for All 50 States & Be Technology Neutral
Fulks also stated that in order for the proposed fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas reduction plan for medium- and heavy-duty trucksto be achievable and successful, "it's imperative that the program be uniform to all 50 states – including California - and that it be fuel neutral and not favor one technology over other proven technologies.
"Through the adoption of emissions standards, testing procedures and other provisions, the proposed rule must ensure that one fuel or technology is not directly or indirectly favored over others, for any of the categories of vehicles covered. Various provisions in the current proposal particularly for lighter duty commercial vehicles as well as vocational trucks may be skewed to favor one fuel over another, or make assumptions that work against the diesel engine option. EPA and NHTSA's role is to establish and maintain a level playing field that allows manufacturers and their customers to select the technology that makes the most sense for their specific needs.
"Based on the industry experience over the last decade-plus we strongly urge EPA and NHTSA to finalize these rules to ensure a national program uniform to all 50 states including California, that ample lead time and stability are provided, and that it is compatible with the diversity of the commercial trucking marketplace," Fulks said.
U.S. Is Already Benefiting From New Diesel Technology
According to research commissioned by the Diesel Technology Forum, in just the last four years—between 2010 and 2014—technologies developed to meet strict diesel emissions standards beginning for model year 2010 engines have generated substantial fuel savings and emission reductions. Over 880 million gallons of diesel fuel which equates to nine million tons of CO2 have been saved in that four-year period thanks simply to the adoption of new clean diesel technology in commercial trucks.
"Since 2000, the leaders in clean diesel technology have met the challenge from both the California Air Resources Board and U.S. EPA to virtually eliminate both NOx and particulate emissions from diesel engines, reducing emissions by as much as 98% from previous levels," Fulks said.
"Now achieving near-zero emissions, clean diesel technology powers the overwhelming majority of medium and commercial trucks today. Thanks to these improvements, and the gains anticipated from this Phase II rule, clean diesel power is poised to continue as the main powertrain technology for commercial vehicles in the future."
Fulks said 2014 was a very strong year for new truck sales with over 186,000 new medium-duty trucks sold (Class 4 to 7) along with over 230,000 heavy-duty (Class 8) trucks sold. The overwhelming majority of these vehicles are powered by clean diesel technology with just a few thousand units powered by other fuels, he added.
"The engine of the future may look and perform somewhat differently, and may be burning different kinds of low carbon fuels," Fulks said. "But in the end, it will still be a diesel engine and an integral component of meeting the needs of a growing economy and a cleaner and more sustainable future."