The use of natural gas vehicles (NGV) and other alternative fuel heavy duty trucks may get a boost from the second round of joint federal greenhouse gas (GHG) and fuel efficiency standards released on Friday, according to industry and environmental groups.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released the new standards for trucks, which have never had the level of efficiency regulation of light-duty vehicles.

An alliance of the country’s largest names in trucking, Heavy Duty Leadership Group, on Friday said it is supportive of "a process to achieve substantial environmental and economic benefits by reducing GHG emissions, improving fuel efficiency and delivering fuel cost savings for fleets."

The proposal “has the potential to be a win-win-win that will lower GHG emissions, reduce fuel costs and reduce our nation's dependence on foreign oil," said Matt Godlewski, president of the Washington, DC-based trade group Natural Gas Vehicles for America. "We look forward to working with [the federal agencies and Obama administration] to finalize a rule that will meet these important goals."

Stakeholder groups including the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) expressed support for a phased-in program that may reduce fuel consumption in the trucking sector by 40% by 2025 compared to 2010 levels.

EDF President Fred Krupp said the proposed clean truck standards "will move us miles down the road toward a cleaner, safer future by sharply reducing climate pollution from the transportation sector."

Heavy duty trucks every year consume an estimated 125 million gallons of fuel and emit more than 450 metric tons of carbon dioxide. "Strong standards can help reduce both fuel and pollution," said EDF attorney Peter Zalzal.

Zalzal and Chester France, a former EPA senior official and clean transportation expert, cited an EDF analysis that indicated that by 2030, truckers would be able to save $30,000/year per truck on fuel costs through the new federal standards. For fleets, the new standards could help lower per-mile operations costs by up to 22 cents/mile, they said.

France stressed that existing technology can be used to meet all of the proposed rules. He cited the existing Department of Energy super-truck program involving all of the major truck manufacturers with demonstration trucks on the road that meet or exceed the new standards. "Today, they are demonstrating anywhere from 70% to more than 100% improvement," he said. "The 40% improvement is based on using technologies that all exist today.”

Calling tractor-trailer trucks "some of the biggest energy hogs on the road," Environmental Entrepreneurs Executive Director Bob Keefe called on the heavy duty truck sector "to get rolling," noting the new standards would save money, "not just for trucking but for every business that depends on them to move their goods across our nation."

Also in the heavy duty sector, Illinois-based Dillon Transport reported it is now operating about half of its 500-plus over-the-road-trucking fleet on compressed natural gas (CNG), and they are more used than the diesel fueled fleet.

After being an early user of liquefied natural gas (LNG) -- albeit with under-sized 8.9-liter engines available in 2011 -- Dillon has for the most part switched to CNG as its alternative fuel. It has only six LNG trucks remaining in its fleet.

The company has fueling stations in Florida, Ohio and Texas, and has indicated it will develop new CNG fueling in Colorado and Chicago. Dillon operates trucks built by Kenworth and Peterbilt with CNG systems by Quantum and Trilogy Engineered Solutions. A company goal is to log 300,000 miles annually on the CNG trucks, looking at savings of $50,000-75,000/year per truck.

Established fueling companies marked the developments of new stations earlier this month in Los Angeles and southern Illinois. Chicago-based Integrys Energy Group's Trillium CNG won a contract to build and operate a second CNG fueling station for Los Angeles Unified School District, the largest NGV school bus operator in the nation.

Trillium built the school district's first CNG fueling facility. The second is to feature 102 time-fill posts and a single-fill dispenser with CNG dispensed overnight using two 150 hp compressors. The opening is set for October.

In Edwardsville, IL, U.S. Gain Clean Fuel opened a public access CNG fueling facility built with consumer package goods company Unilever, the largest U.S. Gain NGV fueling station to date. Under the agreement, Unilever plans to buy 800,000 gallons/year of CNG from Gain Clean Fuel CNG. Equipment for the four-lane station was furnished by Appleton, WI-based CMD Corp.

In the passenger car sector, in addition to Honda announcing its exit from making CNG cars (see Daily GPI, June 16), General Motors last Tuesday said it was delaying the first deliveries of a CNG-gasoline bi-fuel version of the Chevrolet Impala, citing “concerns" identified by its engineers. It is now scheduled for delivery next year, two years past its original delivery date.