MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

Today, the Obama administration announced the first-ever fuel economy standards for heavy vehicles. Big trucks and buses will have to improve their fuel economy by as much as 20 percent by the year 2018. As NPR's Elizabeth Shogren reports, the trucking industry welcomed the new regulations.

ELIZABETH SHOGREN: Outside the White House today, the heavyweights of the truck manufacturing industry took the microphone one after another.

DENNY SLAGLE: We're happy to be part of this. We really appreciate the process.

SHOGREN: Denny Slagle is the CEO of Mack Trucks.

SLAGLE: This takes us to the next level of controlling and reducing greenhouse gases, which we're proud to do.

SHOGREN: Rich Freeland is the president of the engines division at Cummins.

RICH FREELAND: We welcome the challenge and think it's a win all the way around: for the customers, for the industry, and for all of us who participate in it.

SHOGREN: Later, Freeland said his business is strong and although the fuel economy targets are tough, it's easy for his industry to like this rule.

FREELAND: This one lines up real well with what customers want. And they want fuel economy.

SHOGREN: The rule applies to all kinds of vehicles - from school buses to garbage trucks to big rigs. Freeland says one way his company will cut fuel use is by making pollution-control devices work better.

FREELAND: You can actually run the engine more efficiently if you're able to catch, if you will, more stuff before it comes out the tailpipe.

SHOGREN: Other likely technology changes include more streamlined tractor trailer cabs, better and fewer tires, and direct injection engines. Ron Medford, deputy administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, says the impetus for the rules came, in part, from an unlikely source.

RON MEDFORD: The industry asked the EPA, actually, to do this.

SHOGREN: Truck and engine manufacturers wanted to avoid multiple rules. Congress had asked the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to come up with one, and the Supreme Court had told the EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. California also wanted to regulate global warming pollution from trucks. The new standards also are designed to reduce dependence on foreign oil. Medford says it will cost a little extra to buy these trucks and buses, but fuel savings will more than make up for that.

MEDFORD: For a big pickup truck, we estimate that the lifetime fuel savings are about $7,200, and that the cost is just over $1,000.

SHOGREN: At Interstate Relocation Services, a moving company in Springfield, Virginia, Bud Morrissette predicted that the rule will keep costs down for himself and his customers.

BUD MORRISSETTE: Trucks are really the lifeblood of the American economy. Everything that we consume - be it clothing, be it food - is, really, delivered by a truck. And so it's something that I think will touch across all walks of life.

SHOGREN: Environmentalists like the rule, too. It follows an announcement last month of a deal between President Obama and the auto industry to tighten fuel economy for cars and light trucks. David Friedman, from the Union of Concerned Scientists, says together, these rules will go far to fight global warming and America's dependence on foreign oil.

DAVID FRIEDMAN: America is going to save more oil by 2030 than we currently import from the entire Persian Gulf.

SHOGREN: The new truck rules aren't strict enough to force a switch to hybrid technology. Environmentalists plan to push for regulations that would do that after 2018.

Elizabeth Shogren, NPR News, Washington.

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