Consumers Union sent a letter to Senate and House committee leaders on Sept. 20 requesting that they authorize and appropriate funds to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the EPA to make information on fuel economy, emissions and the expected average fuel costs available to the public.
"Based on new data from testing at Consumer Reports, these heavy-duty diesel pickups cost about $35,000 to fuel over the first 15 years of the vehicles' lives. Further, they can cost $7,000 to $10,000 more to fuel than their light-duty gasoline counterparts over that same time," said David Friedman, director of cars and product policy and analysis at Consumers Union. "Without information like this, consumers are powerless to make informed decisions when shopping for these vehicles for their businesses or family."
Friedman, who resigned as NHTSA's deputy administrator in July 2015 after two years at the agency, said the EPA has the raw fuel economy data on heavy-duty pickups in the form of gallons per ton mile -- one ton of cargo transported one mile -- as provided to the agency by automakers, so making the data available to the public would require a minimum of extra effort.
The group said the fuel economy data should be published on the government website fueleconomy.gov and eventually publicized via a window label on new vehicles.
But the EPA's fuel-economy data on heavy-duty trucks is less comprehensive than the more robust tests required of light-duty vehicles.
"Everyone knows that the certification tests are pretty gentle and there's a gap between real-world use," Friedman said in an interview. "So, if, and when, they put out certification numbers, they will probably overestimate fuel economy. But we believe consumers are better off with some data than no data."
Consumers Union said funding is needed because NHTSA and the EPA lack the resources and staff needed to get the project off the ground.