Fox News Distorts Fuel Standards For Big Rigs


Fox News repeatedly claimed that new fuel economy standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks require operators to retrofit or discard their vehicles. In fact, the standards only apply to new trucks beginning with model year 2014.

Fox News Misrepresents Fuel Economy Standards For Trucks

Fox Falsely Claimed Truckers Will Have To Retrofit Or Get Rid Of Their Trucks. On the January 6 editions of Fox News' Happening Now and Special Report, as well as in a article, correspondent Claudia Cowan claimed that the new fuel economy standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks require truckers "to upgrade what they have or buy a new rig. Not cheap." [Fox News, Happening Now, 1/6/12][Fox News, Special Report, 1/6/12][, 1/6/12]

NHTSA: The Rule "In No Way Affects The Trucks Currently Owned And Operated." Fox News attributed the fuel economy rules to the EPA, but the new standards were issued in a "joint rulemaking" by the EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of the Department of Transportation. According to a NHTSA spokesman:

No truckers will need to upgrade or buy a new truck under the new medium- and heavy-duty fuel efficiency rule - the rule only applies to manufacturers, and only to trucks produced in MY 2014 and later. It in no way affects the trucks currently owned and operated. [Email correspondence, 1/6/12]

Rule Applies To New Trucks Starting In 2014. The final rule states:

EPA's final greenhouse gas emission standards under the Clean Air Act will begin with model year 2014. NHTSA's final fuel consumption standards under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 will be voluntary in model years 2014 and 2015, becoming mandatory with model year 2016 for most regulatory categories. Commercial trailers are not regulated in this phase of the Heavy-Duty National Program.


This action affects companies that manufacture, sell, or import into the United States new heavy-duty engines and new Class 2b through 8 trucks, including combination tractors, school and transit buses, vocational vehicles such as utility service trucks, as well as 3⁄4-ton and 1-ton pickup trucks and vans. The heavy-duty category incorporates all motor vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating of 8,500 pounds or greater, and the engines that power them, except for medium-duty passenger vehicles already covered by the greenhouse gas emissions standards and corporate average fuel economy standards issued for light-duty model year 2012-2016 vehicles. [Federal Register, 9/15/11]

Trucking Industry Estimates That Operators Will Recover Up-Front Costs In 18-24 Months. In an August 2011 press conference, Bill Graves of the American Trucking Associations said "we believe that there is a return on investment in this rule for our fleets in that over the course of perhaps 18 to 24 months they're going to recover whatever cost is associated with this new fuel efficient equipment -- will be recovered through the savings in the fuel that they burn," and if "fuel prices spike beyond what we anticipate, it could be even sooner than that." Graves also said: "We've basically been stuck for probably the last quarter of a century without any significant fuel efficiency for a large commercial vehicle." [CQ Transcriptions, 8/9/11, via Nexis]

Federal Officials Calculate Fuel Savings Of $73,000 Over The Life Of A Semi-Truck. From the NHTSA press release:

The standards are expected to yield an estimated $50 billion in net benefits over the life of model year 2014 to 2018 vehicles, and to result in significant long-terms savings for vehicle owners and operators. A semi-truck operator could pay for the technology upgrades in under a year and realize net savings of $73,000 through reduced fuel costs over the truck's useful life. These cost saving standards will also reduce emissions of harmful air pollutants like particulate matter, which can lead to asthma, heart attacks and premature death. [NHTSA, 8/9/11]

Union Of Concerned Scientists: Large Trucks "Account For 20 Percent Of National Fuel Use." From a Union of Concerned Scientists press release about the rule:

Combined with new passenger vehicle standards, by 2030 the United States will save more oil than it currently imports from the Persian Gulf.

The new standards will cover a range of truck categories, from long-haul tractor trailers to buses to cement mixers. They collectively represent only 4 percent of vehicles on the road but account for 20 percent of national fuel use, according to UCS. The new standards will boost fuel efficiency and cut global warming pollution across these vehicle classes. For instance, the standards will reduce the fuel consumption of new long-haul tractor trailers nearly 20 percent by 2018. These trucks, which often travel more than 100,000 miles annually, currently achieve an average of only about 6.5 miles per gallon (mpg) and consume the most fuel of all vehicle categories covered under the new rules. [Union of Concerned Scientists, 8/9/11]

Heavy-Duty Trucks Have Lagged Behind Other Vehicles In Fuel Economy Improvements. The following chart from the Energy Information Administration's Annual Energy Review shows that there have not been improvements in the fuel economy of heavy-duty trucks for decades, unlike other vehicles which have been subject to federal fuel economy standards since the 1970s:

EIA fuel economy chart

Fox Claims Rules Are "Circumventing Congress" -- But Congress Called For The Standards

Fox Claimed EPA Is "Circumventing Congress" With Fuel Economy Rules. On Special Report, Cowan stated, "Circumventing Congress, the Environmental Protection Agency is ordering heavy trucks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 20 percent and overhaul engine designs starting with models built in 2014." [Fox News, Special Report, 1/6/12]

Bush Energy Law Requires Regulation Of Heavy Trucks. A Congressional Research Service summary of the Energy Independence and Security Act, signed into law by George W. Bush in December 2007, states: "The law requires the development of standards for 'work trucks' and commercial medium- and heavy-duty on-highway vehicles." [Congressional Research Service, 12/21/07]

Clean Air Act Requires Regulation Of Air Pollution From New Motor Vehicles. After the Supreme Court ruled that greenhouse gases fall under the Clean Air Act's definition of air pollutant, EPA determined that GHGs endanger public health and welfare and began, in concert with NHTSA, setting joint fuel economy and emissions standards for passenger vehicles. The standards for heavy-duty trucks are an extension of that action. From the Clean Air Act:

The Administrator shall by regulation prescribe (and from time to time revise) in accordance with the provisions of this section, standards applicable to the emission of any air pollutant from any class or classes of new motor vehicles or new motor vehicle engines, which in his [sic] judgement cause, or contribute to, air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare. [42 U.S.C. § 7521]

Fox Falsely Suggests EPA Must Get Rules Approved By Science Advisory Board

Fox Advanced Claim That EPA "Did Not Get These New Regulations Approved According To Proper Procedure." From the January 6 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:

COWAN: Some of these truckers here in California say the Environmental Protection Agency did not get these new regulations approved according to proper procedure. Plaintiffs like Trucker Robert McClernon have hired a government watchdog legal group to argue that the EPA failed to submit its findings to a blue-ribbon panel called the Science Advisory Board as is required by law.

TED HADZI-ANTICH, PACIFIC LEGAL FOUNDATION: EPA missed a step and our organization is interested in making sure that the government complies with the law just like the rest of us do, and when EPA violates the law, like it did her, we're going to hold their feet to the fire.

COWAN: The EPA argues it posted all relevant information online, making it accessible for scientific review. But critics say it's not good enough and that the rules are less about clean air, more about pushing smaller operators out of the way. [Fox News, Happening Now, 1/6/12]

Science Advisory Board Has No Authority To Reject Or Change Rules. Transport Topics, a news publication owned by the American Trucking Associations, reported:

The California-based companies contend that EPA was under a legal requirement to send its proposed regulations to the SAB defore publishing them, but did not, Hadzi-Antich [of the Pacific Legal Foundation] said.


EPA is not legally required to make any changes to rules based on the SAB s comment, nor is it required even to make a comment, Hadzi-Antich said. EPA is only required to formally send the proposal to its SAB, which is an independent advisory board of scientists. [Transport Topics, 12/10/11]

Law Simply Requires EPA To "Make Available" Proposed Regulations. Fox News advanced the claim that EPA is "required by law" to "submit its findings" to the Science Advisory Board. In fact, the law states that the EPA "shall make available to the Board" the proposed regulation. The 1978 law established the Science Advisory Board to "provide such scientific advice as may be requested" by the EPA Administrator or Congress. [42 U.S.C. § 4365]

  • Proposed Rule Was Made Available Online. Responding to comments from the Pacific Legal Foundation, the EPA said it "made the proposed rule and underlying support documents accessible and obtainable by publication of the proposed rule in the Federal Register, and by posting all of the scientific and technical support documents on the web." EPA further stated that "the proposed rule is consistent with, and based in part on the advice and recommendations of the National Academy of Science ... Under these circumstances, the NAS Report is a functional proxy for SAB review. We note further that the proposed rule does not present issues of cutting-edge science, but rather deal with technical engineering determinations of control technology effectiveness and cost." [EPA, August 2011]
Posted In
Environment & Science, Energy
Fox News Channel,
Claudia Cowan
Happening Now, Special Report with Bret Baier
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