Report stresses links between pavement properties, fuel efficiency targets

Armed with “Comprehensive Transportation Fuel Reduction Policies —A Comparison of Heavy Truck Fuel Efficiency and Rigid Pavement Policies,” Portland Cement Association calls for roads and pavement structures to be included in forthcoming U.S. Environmental Protection Agency heavy-duty truck fuel standards through which the White House aims to cut greenhouse gas levels.

Policymakers should consider a dual mandate in their fuel reduction objectives, the report argues, one centered on vehicle efficiency, the other on pavement selection. The latter’s impact on fuel reduction is significant, authors observe: Policy focused on paving 15 percent of all the roads scheduled for repaving with a rigid surface—like concrete— would save nearly 7 billion gallons of fuel by 2035.

“Massachusetts Institute of Technology research suggests that fuel economy gains can be achieved by converting flexible pavement to more rigid pavements,” says PCA Chief Economist Edward Sullivan. “In real-world conditions, Florida International University concluded tractor-trailers use 4.5 percent less fuel on rigid surfaces.” Addressing road performance at the same time as emission standards, he adds, will also speed up the impact of cleaner tailpipes.

According to the White House, heavy-duty trucks account for just 4 percent of highway vehicles, but are responsible for 20 percent of transportation sector fuel consumption. Current fuel-economy standards are aimed at reducing truck fuel use by as much as 20 percent. “Fuel economy policies only target new vehicles, so a great impact is only seen after the old fleet is retired,” Sullivan concludes. “Roads, however, are continually being repaved so that fuel and emission standards could be more immediate.”