WASHINGTON -- Federal regulators soon will propose a fuel economy rule that divides light trucks into five classes by size rather than weight, industry sources say.
Smaller trucks would have tougher fuel economy standards than larger ones, the sources say. The new rule would be the biggest change in 30 years of government efforts to curb fuel use.
Previous discussions focused largely on classifying trucks by weight. Safety advocates opposed that idea, saying it would encourage automakers to build big vehicles even heavier.
"Size actually is probably more relevant to the customer," says Dave Hermance, executive engineer of environmental engineering at Toyota Technical Center U.S.A. "It appears NHTSA came to that conclusion themselves."
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration administers the corporate average fuel economy program. NHTSA spokesman Rae Tyson declined to discuss details of the new proposal.
Hermance says Toyota officials were told the CAFE proposal will classify trucks according to a calculation that involves wheelbase and track width to determine the area bounded by a vehicles four wheels.
"If they go in moderate steps, then that's probably not a bad idea," Hermance says. "It serves to level the playing field, and I think that's what almost everybody wants."