Our Positions: Fuel Efficiency Standards (CAFE)

The following is PHCC’s position on fuel efficiency standards (CAFE) as of Oct. 4, 2000. For more information or questions, email government@naphcc.org.  

Background

Congress is currently considering legislation to freeze the corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards at current levels already established by the Department of Transportation (DOT). A temporary one year freeze was included in DOT’s Fiscal Year 1996 appropriation; the legislation would extend the freeze at the current levels of 27.5 miles per gallon (mpg) for passenger cars and 20.7 mpg for light trucks, until changed by law. If enacted, this legislation would force DOT to defer plans for imposing drastic increases in light truck CAFE standards, as outlined by DOT in the spring of 1994.

PHCC-National Association believes that unreasonably high CAFE standards have already raised automobile and light truck costs, limited consumer choice of vehicles and reduced highway safety without achieving the anticipated environmental and energy efficiency benefits expected. Most of the vehicles used in the construction industry fall into the “light truck” category.

Contractors rely on these vehicles for access, storage space, safety and economy. Risking or sacrificing the safety, function and performance of light trucks in the name of increased fuel efficiency is a bad idea. Construction company owners chose specific vehicles for a variety reasons, least of which is the vehicle’s purported CAFE rating or fuel efficiency.

A few of the real reasons construction contractors chose specific vehicles are (in no particular order): safety, expected lifespan of vehicle, durability and reliability, ease and handling, engine size and/or power, towing, plowing and hauling capability, ground clearance and off-road capability, stocking options, and size and configuration of cargo space.

Overall safety, performance and reliability may be sacrificed by higher CAFE standards for light trucks. Experience shows that higher CAFE standards will result in: vehicle “downsizing” and “down-weighting” which will diminish cargo, hauling and towing capacities and diminish the safety of performing heavy tasks; result in smaller engines, which will also affect cargo, hauling and towing capacities, and will limit power needed for off-road access to construction sites; reduced cargo space, which will require more frequent trips between job sites and material suppliers; and increased vehicle price, which will hurt business owners but will ultimately be passed on to the consumer.

All of the above will result in increased construction costs that will ultimately be borne by consumers.

Status

PHCC-National Association supports legislation to freeze the corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards at current levels already established by the Department of Transportation (DOT).