PCA: Pavements belong in feds’ vehicle fuel economy, lower emissions equation

Sources: Portland Cement Association, Washington, D.C.; CP staff

Responding to the White House’s just-announced second phase of fuel economy standards for heavy-duty trucks, targeted for 2015-16 rulemaking and implementation, PCA CEO Gregory Scott notes, “We should expand the debate beyond making more efficient [vehicles] to making more efficient infrastructure.”

Stiffer pavements such as those of concrete construction, he adds, produce less rolling resistance and better fuel economy. Models in recent Massachusetts Institute of Technology/Concrete Sustainability Hub (CSHub) research predict that the use of stiffer pavements, versus more flexible alternatives, can reduce fuel use by as much as 3 percent—a savings that would add up to 273 million barrels of crude oil per year.

Florida International University investigators tested the models on vehicles traveling rigid and flexible pavement sections of Interstate 95. For rigid pavement sections, they observed lower fuel consumption figures of 3.2 percent and 4.5 percent, respectively, for passenger vehicles and loaded tractor-trailers. If all Florida highway pavements were rigid, researchers estimated annual fuel savings exceeding $2 billion.

Heavy-duty trucks account for 4 percent of highway vehicles, but are responsible for 20 percent of transportation sector carbon pollution, the White House contends. In a mid-February appearance at a Maryland grocery distribution center, President Obama announced plans to introduce a rule for higher truck fuel economy by 2016, charging Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy with developing standards “that will take us well into the next decade.”

Finalized in September 2011 and covering 2014–2018 model years, the Obama administration’s first round of standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles is projected to save 530 million barrels of oil and reduce greenhouse emissions by approximately 270 million metric tons, saving vehicle owners and operators an estimated $50 billion in fuel costs over the lifetimes of the vehicles covered. The current standards are aimed at reducing truck fuel use by as much as 20 percent.

The second round of fuel efficiency standards will spur manufacturing innovation and lead to the adoption of new technologies on trucks and semi-trailers. EPA and NHTSA will assess advanced technologies that may not currently be in production, and consider engine and powertrain efficiency improvements; aerodynamics and weight reduction; improved tire rolling resistance; hybridization; automatic engine shutdown; and, accessory improvements (water pumps, fans, auxiliary power units, air conditioning, etc).