• Assess current and potential technologies and estimate improvements in fuel economy for medium-duty and heavy-duty trucks that might be achieved;

  • Address how the technologies identified in Task 2 above may be used practically to improve medium-duty and heavy-duty truck fuel economy;

  • Address how such technologies may be practically integrated into the medium-duty and heavy-duty truck manufacturing process;

  • Assess how such technologies may be used to meet fuel economy standards;

  • Discuss the pros and cons of approaches to improving the fuel efficiency of moving goods as opposed to setting vehicle fuel economy standards; and

  • Identify the potential costs and other impacts on the operation of medium-duty and heavy-duty trucks. (See Appendix A for the full statement of task.)

The committee discussed these tasks with the DOT/NHT-SA representatives, as well as relevant congressional staff, prior to and at the committee’s first meeting. The purpose of these discussions was to explore what information and data could be made available to the committee and to take advantage of the expertise available on the committee to determine the extent to which the tasks could be addressed. It should be noted that the study does not address the use of alternative fuels to substitute for fossil-fuel-based diesel or gasoline. Domestic production of alternative fuels such as biodiesel or natural gas could help to reduce demand for imports of petroleum or reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, but these technologies and/or strategies are not addressed. The committee provides some insights in Chapter 6 into the unintended consequences that could arise from various approaches that might be used to reduce the fuel consumption of vehicles. In addition, Chapter 7 explores the advantages and disadvantages of alternative approaches to reducing fuel consumption, since many of these alternatives involve regulatory changes, and Chapter 8 discusses fuel consumption regulatory approaches.


The President and Congress have placed among the highest national objectives that of reducing petroleum imports. Despite efforts to wean the United States away from oil toward more acceptable fuels, it has become increasingly dependent on oil (Figure 1-1).

FIGURE 1-1 Energy consumption by major source end-use sector, 1949-2008. SOURCE: DOE, EIA (2009b, p. 39).

FIGURE 1-1 Energy consumption by major source end-use sector, 1949-2008. SOURCE: DOE, EIA (2009b, p. 39).

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