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August 9, 2011 4:15 PM, EDT

Obama Announces Heavy-Duty Truck Fuel Economy Standards

Larry Smith/Trans Pixs

President Obama on Tuesday announced the first-ever regulations setting heavy-duty truck fuel efficiency standards, intended to reduce fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions from heavy trucks by as much as 23%.

The heavy-duty truck standards will average about a 20% reduction in both measures by model year 2018, depending on a truck’s payload, the Department of Transportation said.

The standards are targeted to save truckers up to 4 gallons of fuel for every 100 miles traveled, DOT said in a statement.

Administration officials expect the standards to save 530 million barrels of oil from 2014 to 2018, and save vehicles $50 billion in fuel costs.

Obama will announce the regulations at a private meeting Tuesday in Washington with officials from major truck and engine manufacturers, technology companies and trucking fleets, White House officials said.

Those averages reflect the fuel-economy standards for heavy-duty trucks proposed in October by the Environmental Protection Agency and National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, the latter which is part of DOT.

The joint DOT/EPA program will include a range of targets for three major truck categories: combination tractors, heavy-duty pickups and vans, and vocational vehicles like buses and refuse trucks.

Within each category, more specific targets will be laid out based on the design and purpose of the vehicle. This flexible structure allows serious but achievable fuel efficiency improvement goals charted for each year and for each vehicle category and type, DOT said.

The heavy-duty truck standards will increase the cost of the average truck by about $6,220, but that investment will pay off in less than a year through reduced fuel costs and will save about $73,000 in fuel costs throughout the life of the truck, officials said.

American Trucking Associations said it welcomed the move, noting that it had proposed a six-point sustainability program back in 2007.

“Our members have been pushing for the setting of fuel efficiency standards for some time and today marks the culmination of those efforts,” ATA President Bill Graves said in a statement.

“While it is too early to know all the potential effects of this rule, we do know it sets us on the path to a future where we depend less on foreign oil, spend less on fuel and contribute less to climate change,” Graves said.