updated 5/8/2008 1:05:49 PM ET 2008-05-08T17:05:49

Struggling with record diesel prices, the trucking industry's main trade group on Thursday introduced a plan to reduce fuel consumption and emissions over the next decade mainly by having its members slow down.

The American Trucking Associations, whose members include FedEx Corp., UPS Inc. and Con-way Inc., says adherence to a handful of new proposals will reduce fuel consumption by 86 billion gallons and carbon dioxide emissions — the main culprit of climate change — by 900 million tons for all vehicles over the next 10 years.

The recommendations are:

  • Limit the speed new trucks can travel to no more than 68 mph and reduce the national speed limit to 65 mph for all vehicles.
  • Reduce engine idling.
  • Increase fuel efficiency through participation in an Environmental Protection Agency partnership program.
  • Ease congestion by improving the nation's highways, through a fuels tax increase if necessary.
  • Use more productive truck combinations.
  • Support national fuel economy standards for trucks.

Congress repealed the national speed limit law in 1995, and 32 states now have limits of 70 mph or higher on some parts of their highways, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. But the ATA has yet to find a federal lawmaker to champion its cause of reducing the national limit.

"Our proposals are practical, reasonable, and doable," ATA President and Chief Executive Bill Graves said in a release, adding that the program continues environmental advances made by the industry over the last 25 years. "But there's no doubt that today's skyrocketing diesel prices give us an added incentive to roll it out across the industry, and for Congress to provide the support the program needs."

Diesel prices rose about a penny overnight Thursday to match the record high of just over $4.25 a gallon set last week, according to AAA and the Oil Price Information Service. The average price a year ago was about $2.91 a gallon.

Truck drivers, who haul 70 percent of all freight in the U.S., recently protested rising fuel prices at the U.S. Capitol and elsewhere, and have urged Congress to end large oil company subsidies and release fuel from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, among other things.

The ATA has said it now costs more than $1,000 to fill a typical tractor-trailer, and that the nation's 3.5 million truck drivers are on pace to spend a record $135 billion on diesel fuel this year, up $22 billion from 2007.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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