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May 9, 2007 8:30 AM, EDT

Senate Panel Sets Mileage Bill To Include Heavy Trucks

Tannen Maury/Bloomberg News

A Senate panel approved a measure that would boost automobile fuel-economy standards and set mileage standards for heavy trucks for the first time, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

The bill, passed by a voice vote of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Tuesday, calls for raising the corporate average fuel economy, or CAFE, standard for automotive fleet production to an average 35 miles per gallon by 2020, the Journal said.

It would also require mileage improvement gains for medium- and heavy-duty trucks of 4% per year, marking the first time such mandates would be set for heavy-duty trucks of more than 10,000 pounds, the paper reported.

The U.S. automotive industry has opposed efforts to significantly boost CAFE standards for years, the Journal reported.

The Big Three — Ford, General Motors and DaimlerChrysler — and their unions have argued that imposing such standards would add cost burdens at a time when they are struggling for market share, the Journal said.

The measure’s outlook is uncertain, the paper said, with the House yet to act on its own version, and some calling for either stronger, or weaker, measures, the paper reported.

Allen Schaefer, president of the Diesel Technology Forum, which represents some truck makers, told the Journal it would be wrong to regulate truck fleets the same as passenger cars.

The group Public Citizen — which successfully challenged federal rules on driver hours and has also questioned the Transportation Department’s plan to bring Mexican trucks into the United States — said in a statement that the bill did not go far enough.