Heavy-Duty Trucks on U.S. Roads Must Cut Emissions by 2027
Streaming lines of heavy-duty transport trucks speed along American highways, hustling essential goods to cities and hubs. These vital supply chains must be fed, and America is doing just that, but at the cost of many lives.
Debuting the first new emissions standards for heavy-duty trucks in 20 years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says the rule could prevent as many as 2,900 premature deaths each year due to toxic emissions from the diesel-fueled big rigs.
Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, at 29 percent. And within the overall transport sector, heavy-duty vehicles in total are the second-largest emissions contributor, at 23 percent, according to EPA data.
Thirteen million trucks operate in the United States reports the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Of this number, 2.9 million are tractor trailers.
To limit toxic smog-forming pollutants from these millions of heavy-duty trucks, the U.S. EPA has issued a new rule <https://www.epa.gov/regulations-emissions-vehicles-and-engines/final-rule-and-related-materials-control-air-pollution> targeting nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions.
The new rule is the first update to clean air standards for heavy-duty trucks in more than 20 years. They are more than 80 percent stronger than current standards. But not everyone is happy with them.
Ceres, a Boston nonprofit that works with capital market influencers to resolve sustainability challenges, argues that the final rule will not be strong enough to address this pollution in a timely manner, Zach Friedman, director of federal policy at Ceres, said.
"Large commercial vehicles are critical to the functioning of our economy, and there is no reason they must threaten our climate or the health of the communities they pass through," Friedman said. "While we are pleased that the EPA will now more effectively regulate NOx pollutants, we are disappointed that the agency did not opt for more aggressive action and stronger, still-feasible standards."
"Ceres will keep pushing for additional regulations to further cut vehicle pollution by ensuring the availability of zero-emission trucks, especially as federal investments recently approved by Congress make these vehicles more accessible," Friedman said.
With these facts in mind, on December 20, 2022 the U.S. EPA finalized the strongest-ever national clean air standards to cut smog- and soot-forming emissions from heavy-duty trucks, beginning with model year 2027.
"EPA is taking significant action to protect public health, especially the health of 72 million people living near truck freight routes in America, including our most vulnerable populations in historically overburdened communities," said EPA Administrator Michael Regan. "But we’re not stopping there. This is just the first action under EPA’s Clean Trucks Plan to pave the way toward a zero-emission future."
EPA IS TAKING SIGNIFICANT ACTION TO PROTECT PUBLIC HEALTH, ESPECIALLY THE HEALTH OF 72 MILLION PEOPLE LIVING NEAR TRUCK FREIGHT ROUTES IN AMERICA, INCLUDING OUR MOST VULNERABLE POPULATIONS IN HISTORICALLY OVERBURDENED COMMUNITIES.
Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
"These rigorous standards, coupled with historic investments from the Inflation Reduction Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, will accelerate President Biden’s ambitious agenda to overhaul the nation’s trucking fleet, deliver cleaner air, and protect people and the planet," Regan said.
Part of a ‘Whole-of-Government’ Plan
On January 10, 2023, the Biden-Harris Administration released its overall plan - the U.S. National Blueprint for Transportation Decarbonization. Developed by the Departments of Energy, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and the EPA, the Blueprint is a strategy for cutting all greenhouse emissions from the transportation sector by 2050.
It exemplifies the Biden-Harris Administration’s whole-of-government approach to addressing the climate crisis and meeting President Biden’s goals of securing a 100% clean electrical grid by 2035 and reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
The Blueprint builds on President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act, which together are historic investments that will enable billions in spending to build the backbone of a safer and more sustainable transportation system.
Jointly announced by U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Marcia Fudge, and EPA Administrator Regan, the Blueprint is the first milestone deliverable of the historic memorandum of understanding signed by the agencies in September 2022.
More detailed decarbonization action plans are in the planning stages, to be developed and implemented by these four agencies in cooperation with governments at the state, local, and tribal levels, philanthropic organizations, the private sector, and global partners.
"The domestic transportation sector presents an enormous opportunity to drastically reduce emissions that accelerate climate change and reduce harmful pollution," said Energy Secretary Granholm. "DOE is prepared to implement this Blueprint alongside our partners within the Biden-Harris Administration to ensure all Americans feel the benefits of the clean transportation transition: good-paying manufacturing jobs, better air quality, and lower transportation costs."
TRANSPORTATION POLICY IS INSEPARABLE FROM HOUSING AND ENERGY POLICY, AND TRANSPORTATION ACCOUNTS FOR A MAJOR SHARE OF U.S. GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS, SO WE MUST WORK TOGETHER IN AN INTEGRATED WAY TO CONFRONT THE CLIMATE CRISIS.
U.S. Secretary of Transportation
"Every decision about transportation is also an opportunity to build a cleaner, healthier, more prosperous future. When our air is cleaner; when more people can get good-paying jobs; when everyone stays connected to the resources they need and the people they love, we are all better off," Buttigieg said.
"At EPA,” Regan said, “our priority is to protect public health, especially in overburdened communities, while advancing the President’s ambitious climate agenda. This Blueprint is a step forward in delivering on those goals and accelerating the transition to a clean transportation future."
Clean air environmental justice advocates have long insisted that reducing NOx pollution is critical to relieving low-income and overburdened communities living near major highways that have long suffered its worst effects. The Blueprint attempts to improve these conditions.
"The people HUD serves deserve clean, affordable transportation options," said Secretary Fudge. "HUD is proud to join our federal partners at Energy, DoT, and EPA to ensure that clean transportation investments are made equitably and include communities and households that have been most harmed by environmental injustice. We look forward to working together to better align transportation, housing, and community development investments in these and other communities across the country."
The Biden Blueprint recognizes the impact getting around can have on the family budget. stating, "Transportation costs are the second largest household expense for Americans and a well-planned transition to a sustainable transportation future will also result in a more affordable and equitable transportation system.”
On offer are: “improved transportation services; more mobility choices; improved air quality and health; greater energy security; better quality of life and accessibility; improved health outcomes; enhanced access to a variety of housing options, services, and amenities; well-paying jobs; and safer, more vibrant and resilient communities throughout the country.”
As an essential part of their agreement, the four agencies are committed to creating a decarbonization strategy for the entire transportation sector to guide future policymaking and research, development, demonstration, and deployment in both public and private sectors.
The Biden Administration is betting that, "Further developing and deploying clean-energy technologies such as electric vehicles and hydrogen and sustainable fuels, while also building out the supporting infrastructure for clean transportation, will create good-paying jobs in all segments of the transportation sector while strengthening America’s energy independence."