Local truckers react to Obama's fuel efficiency plan

May 21, 2010 5:40:04 PM PDT
President Barack Obama ordered the government Friday to set the first-ever gas mileage and pollution limits for big trucks. He has given the government just a year to come up with fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emission standards.

Trucks and buses make up about 4 percent of all the vehicles on the highway, but create 20 percent of the pollution. The president says the new standards will also save money.

"We estimate, for example, that we can increase fuel economy by as much as 25 percent in tractor-trailers using technologies that already exist today," said the president.

California has tried to cut truck emissions for years. General Motors said Friday that a new national standard will help automakers produce a fuel-efficient trucks quickly and cheaply.

Bay Area truckers say they are on board with Obama's push toward better fuel efficiency, as long as the burden of paying for it does not fall on them.

"As long as the burden doesn't fall on the little guys here," said Oakland trucker Dominic Lee. "If the manufacturers step up and work with the emission standards and the fuel mileage standards, I'm all for it."

The president wants federal mileage and emissions standards for big-rigs in place by the 2014 model year.

At the Port of Oakland, independent truckers say trying to comply with California's already stringent standards has put many of them out of business.

"A lot of small businesses, owner-operators, who are trying to figure out how to make a living because they're out of the industry completely because cleaning the air was put on them and not on the large manufacturers and large fuel companies," said Oakland trucker Miguel Silva.

At Kenworth Trucks in San Leandro, the new models reflect manufacturers' latest efforts to increase fuel economy and reduce emissions. They include lighter components, streamlined design and natural gas and hybrid technology.

Now, under the president's directive, even more must be done.

"Lighter weight, more durable, recyclable, all of those, are really going to advance the industry from a cleaner truck, a safer truck and a more fuel-efficient truck," said Harry Mamizuka of Norcal Kenworth.

Truckers worry about the prices going up as manufacturers build in emissions improvements. In one example, according to the dealer, a truck that in 2001 normally would have sold for $100,000, would now sell today for as much as $140,000 because of all the improvements. By 2014, the cost could go up another 10 to 15 percent.


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