Responding to the White House’s second phase of fuel economy standards for heavy-duty trucks, targeted for 2015-16 rulemaking and implementation, Portland Cement Association CEO Gregory Scott noted, “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 pavements were rigid, it could amount to an annual fuel savings of more than $2 billion for highway users, researchers concluded.

In an appearance at a Maryland grocery distribution center, President Obama announced plans to introduce a rule for higher medium and heavy-duty truck fuel economy by 2016. He has charged Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy to “develop fuel economy standards for heavy-duty trucks that will take us well into the next decade.” Heavy-duty trucks account for 4 percent of highway vehicles, but are responsible for 20 percent of carbon pollution from the transportation sector, the White House contends. Current fuel-economy 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 fuel-efficient technologies on trucks and semi-trailers. In developing the standards, EPA and NHTSA will assess advanced technologies that may not currently be in production, and consider, for example, 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.). The Volvo Group North America committed to working with the EPA and NHTSA on Phase II of the national program. “As a leading manufacturer of heavy trucks, buses and engines, we remain committed to products that reduce our carbon footprint and offer increased fuel efficiency benefits to our customers,” said Senior Vice President–Public Affairs Susan Alt. “The Volvo Group wants to ensure that Phase II of the national program establishes a complete vehicle standard to optimize fuel efficiency in a cost-effective manner that offers the most benefit to customers and the environment.”

Complete vehicle emissions standards—as opposed to separate standards for engines and vehicles—will allow manufacturers to deliver the greatest value with less complexity, and without making the engine or overall truck heavier or compromising vehicle aerodynamics, Volvo officials note.

The Obama administration’s first round of standards for mediumand heavy-duty vehicles, finalized in September 2011 and covering 2014–208 model years, is projected to save 530 million barrels of oil and reduce GHG 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.

Volvo Group’s North American truck brands, Volvo Trucks and Mack Trucks, were fully certified prior to the ruling taking effect January 2014. Depending on the model and specifications, engine fuel efficiency improved more than 2 percent, translating into a reduction of up to 5 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per truck per year.