A coalition of major food companies, retailers and other businesses want federal regulators to take a hard line on reducing truck emissions and increasing fuel economy.
The businesses, which include food giant General Mills, Unilever’s Ben & Jerry’s ice cream division and clothing retailer Patagonia Inc. wrote to the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Friday, asking the agencies to resist efforts to water down proposed truck regulations.
The 12 companies, which say they account for more than 500 million freight miles driven annually, are seeking a 40 percent reduction in fuel use from the nation’s heavy trucks fleet by 2025.
The federal proposal would achieve a smaller, 36 percent savings by 2027, the coalition said.
“We believe that stronger cost-effective standards make economic and environmental sense,” the companies said. “The availability of fuel efficient trucks is critical to reducing our carbon footprints as well as our fuel costs and ultimately cost-savings to the consumer.”
Ceres, a non-profit group of businesses active in environmental issues, organized the letter in response to a call from the agencies for comment on new data “relating to the potential stringency of the standards.”
“Freight trucks already account for over half a billion tons of climate warming carbon emissions a year and are the fastest growing single source of emissions,” the companies said. “Stronger standards would save an additional 40 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 – equivalent to shutting down an additional 12 coal-fired power plants.”
The trucking industry is carefully monitoring the federal government’s efforts to increase emissions and fuel economy standards. It’s a thorny issue because savings could be achieved in a variety of ways that include improvements to truck tractors, trailers, tire technology and other equipment.
How much each component of a big-rig should contribute to savings and how it all fits together when so many manufacturers are making different parts of semi-trailer truck remains an industry debate.
The American Trucking Associations, a group representing major fleet owners, went on the record in October supporting the goals of the standards but voiced a number of concerns, including the cost of the technology needed to meet the standards as well as requirements for add-on equipment for tractor-trailers.
The trucking trade group said the goal of the standards should be to “achieve the greatest efficiency improvements at the least overall cost while minimizing downtime, maximizing durability, and recognizing a positive return on investment over the course of equipment ownership.” the ATA said.
Other industries are jumping into the debate because of the economy’s reliance on trucking.
“Strong efficiency standards for heavy trucks will help our companies avoid billions of dollars in fuel costs and at the same time support the U.S. economy by keeping product transportation affordable and insulating freight costs from volatile global and regional crude oil prices,” the companies said.
Shippers spend $650 billion a year on trucking services, they said.
The food companies in the group recognize addressing fuel emissions is good for business, said Luke Tonachel, director of the Clean Vehicles and Fuels Project at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
“Producing natural, wholesome foods depends on a clean and healthy planet,” Tonachel said. “Cleaning up trucks is an important part of protecting the environment and ensuring a sustainable business for these companies.”
He called heavy trucks the “energy hogs” of the highway.
Tractor-trailers, buses, delivery vans and other trucks emit 23 percent of carbon pollution from the transportation sector but account for only about 4 percent of the vehicles on the road, he said.
Companies outside of the trucking industry have a stake in the standards and should have an important voice in the debate, said Don Anair, deputy director of the Clean Vehicles Research Program at Union of Concerned Scientists.
The standards would also provide a level playing field for those in the industry striving to have the most fuel-efficient trucks available, Anair said.
In June, the EPA and the NHTSA proposed standards for medium and heavy-duty vehicles to improve fuel efficiency and cut carbon pollution. The agency said the standards, known as Phase 2, would cut carbon pollution by about 1 billion metric tons and save approximately 75 billion gallons of fuel over the lifetime of the vehicles subject to the standards.
The agencies said that while the technology would make trucks more expensive, buyers would recoup costs within two to six years, depending on the vehicle type.
Last year, Businesses for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy, a business coalition whose members employ more than 2 million workers and garner $400 billion in annual revenue, also wrote to the agencies asking them to strengthen the proposed standards to require a 40 percent reduction in fuel consumption by 2025.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article said the 12 companies that signed the letter were affiliated with Ceres. Two are not. Eight are members of the organization’s policy coalition and two more have participated in other policy initiatives. Two have not worked with Ceres previously.