Planet Gore

Regulation Fever! Now It’s Trucks

Downturn? What downturn? The Obama administration has moved to load massive new costs on yet another industry at a time when American businesses can least afford it.

The transportation sector is hit particularly hard in economic swoons, but this tone-deaf administration is now releasing its “earth-friendly” pit bulls on the trucking industry. Obama has ordered NHTSA to begin work on meeting a federal law requiring mpg standards for heavy-duty trucks for the first time ever (a special wag of the finger goes to the Bush administration which supported the legislation passed in 2007). 

Trucking industry leaders looked none too happy flanking the president at his announcement (after all, similar rules will cost the automotive industry a staggering $85 billion by 2015), but in a Washington dominated by anti-industry Democrats, a trucking spokesmen says it is “better to be at the table than to be on the menu.” Indeed, NHTSA’s presence is a concession to truckers who lobbied hard against EPA (which has no obligation to take costs into account) setting the rules.

Since 2008, freight volumes have decreased 15 percent while 53 percent of trucking firms have gone belly-up. But to regular Green Church-goer Obama, the planet must be saved. “This will bring down costs for transporting goods, serving businesses and consumers alike,” the president claimed — against all evidence.

Ironically, federal particulate-reduction regulations enacted in 2003 have “decreased pollutants at a cost to fuel economy,” says Clayton Boyce of the American Trucking Association. That mandate added $30,000 in costs to a typical $125,000 truck.

Though the new regulations will add still more burden, the industry is at least glad that the government is moving in the direction of improved efficiency. Unlike the automotive sector — where mpg rules perversely force manufacturers to make fuel sippers in a market where buyers put a low priority on fuel economy — gas mileage is paramount to truckers.

Steve Graham, a spokesman for Schneider, a major hauler, says that one-tenth of one mpg saved saves his firm $10 million a year. Of course, his company didn’t need the government to tell it that.

But now that Washington bureaucrats are inside the trucker’s cab, it will only get more uncomfortable. Just ask the auto industry.


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