Big trucks represent just 4% of the vehicles on the road today, but consume up to 20% of the oil our country uses every day. That means they are drinking up five times their fill, largely because this big rigs are rolling 100,000 miles or more every year while getting an average of 6-7 mpg. Yes, they are hauling a lot of weight, but profit margins are driven by fuel costs in this business, so you would think the industry would have done all they could to increase fuel efficiency voluntarily.
They haven’t, so the EPA is stepping in. For trucks sold between 2014 and 2018, the EPA is considering finally enforcing a fuel efficiency standard for the largest of these vehicles. Even a modest increase to 10 mpg could have far reaching benefits, for both truck drivers and the environment alike.
The EPA plans to finalize this legislation sometime next year, which would set a as-yet undetermined fuel efficiency for the largest trucks on the market. The Union of Concerned Scientists (admittedly not the best source for trucking information) put together some useful diagrams to show how even a modest increase in fuel standards could make a big difference.
If big rigs were required to get 10 mpg (loaded? unloaded?), it would add about $44,000 to the cost of a new truck. That cost would come from implementing current technology such as reducing engine idling, more efficient truck and trailer aerodynamics, and improvements to the transmission. Over the course of a 120,000 miles at the cost of $3.50 a gallon of diesel, this would save drivers and owners of big rigs $24,500 a year, and 7,000 gallons of fuel, per rig. In just two years, the extra cost would be paid off, and over five years the owner of the rig would pocket an additional $56,000 in saved fuel costs.
That is huge for these guys, who make a profit on the slimmest margins in this highly competitive market. If you were to run a modest fleet of ten trucks, that is over a half-million bucks in your pocket extra in just five years.
This is how green technology needs to be marketed. But will big rig buyers bite?