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Obama sets new carbon emission standards for big trucks

President Obama plans to announce today new efficiency standards for the nation’s heavy truck and bus fleet that will reduce carbon emissions for some of the biggest polluters on the highway by as much as 20 percent.

The new legislation, which includes tractor-trailers, city buses and garbage trucks, is the first of its kind, and has the added cachet of being backed by both shipping and truck manufacturing leaders.

The goal is to improve tractor-trailer fuel economy by around 20 percent by 2018, with economy increased by 12 percent for heavy-duty pickups and nine percent for vocational trucks, which include delivery trucks, buses and garbage trucks. The administration projects the move will save 530 million barrels of oil and will save fleets $50 billion in fuel costs over five years.

The administration has two overall aims with transportation: reduce oil dependence and lower greenhouse-gas emissions. This particular regulation is popular not only because it will have a major impact, but also because it will save the industry money.

“Fuel is one of our top two operating expenses, along with labor,” Glen Kedzie, American Trucking Association’s vice president and environmental counsel, told the Wall Street Journal. “This is one of the few regulations I’ve ever seen where there’s going to be a financial benefit going back to the purchaser of that truck. Most regulation is a capital outlay, which you don’t recoup.”

The change will add upfront costs to the price of trucks, with estimates ranging from $380 for vocational truck to $1,050 for heavy-duty pickups and $6,220 for the top-of-the-line semi-truck tractors. While that may seem like a lot, they are small percentages of the purchase price for these types of trucks, and will save fuel costs. In the case of the tractor-trailers, the regulation’s positive effects work all the way down to individual operators, who will save an estimated $73,000 over the lifetime of their shiny new truck.