On December 4, 2015, President Obama signed into U.S. law the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, or “FAST Act.” It is the first law enacted in over 10 years that provides long-term funding certainty for surface transportation and spans five years. The FAST Act includes significant provisions to advance natural gas as a transportation fuel that have been advocated by the national trade association NGVAmerica.
“Congress recognizes the value of using clean-burning natural gas in transportation, and the FAST Act will help put more natural gas vehicles on American roads,” says Matthew Godlewski, President of NGVAmerica. “This legislation will assist fleets and consumers transition to cleaner, low-cost, domestic natural gas to power their vehicles.”
Provisions contained in the FAST Act include a weight exemption that allows heavy-duty natural gas trucks to exceed the federal weight limits up to 82,000 lbs. to compensate for the additional weight of natural gas fuel systems and tanks. This commonsense provision would level the playing field for natural gas trucks that are currently unable to haul the same amount of freight as diesel-powered trucks.
Another key provision creates regulatory parity for NGVs by allowing automakers to more accurately calculate fuel economy of bi-fuel NGVs. The current credit assumes bi-fuel NGVs operate 50% of the time on gasoline instead of natural gas, and therefore do not fully reflect the benefits of bi-fuel natural gas vehicles.
Additionally, the FAST Act includes provisions that expand the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) Program to, among other things, clarify that port facilities qualify for funding; create alternative fuel infrastructure corridors, including natural gas fueling stations along major national highways; and extend a state’s ability to provide HOV lane access for NGVs and other dedicated alternative fuel vehicles until 2025.
“NGVAmerica commends Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) and other Congressional leaders for including key NGV provisions in the bipartisan FAST Act,” says Godlewski. “We have more work to do to further grow the market for natural gas vehicles, and Congress has sent a strong message today in support of more fuel diversity in the American economy.”