Does it ever strike you as odd that while smaller cars have stricter pollution standards and get cleaner on a regular basis, large trucks and buses are still belching diesel fumes? That’s because the emissions standards for large vehicles have not changed almost since the turn of the century, over 20 years ago. The Environmental Protection Agency is now taking steps to finalize tougher pollution standards on large vehicles such as trucks and buses, in the hopes of furthering climate action goals for cleaner air.

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The EPA’s first new emissions rules for trucks and buses since 2001

The Biden administration has just finalized tougher pollution standards for heavy-duty vehicles, including large trucks, buses and delivery vans starting with the model year 2027. 

Related: EPA attempts to mandate more biofuel use in the US

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) new standards are the first update to large vehicle pollution and emissions rules since 2001. The new EPA rules will cut down on soot and smog created by heavy-duty trucks by requiring large vehicles to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides by nearly 50% by 2045. This change is more than 80% stronger than the current standard, according to the EPA.

Large vehicle emissions don’t just impact the climate: they are connected to asthma and human health hazards in large cities world wide. The new rules will dramatically update the requirements for large vehicles to adhere to a cleaner standard.

The estimated impact of updating large vehicle emissions regulations

The EPA estimates the new large vehicle emissions rules will lead to 78,000 fewer lost days of work from health impacts, 1.1 million fewer lost school days for children and a net benefit of $29 billion. Transportation is currently the largest source of planet-warming emissions in the U.S. Average household vehicles make up over half of the sector’s emissions. However, heavy-duty trucks and buses make up almost another quarter at 23% despite there being fewer of them on the road. As large trucks are an outsized contributor to emissions, climate change and pollution, this new set of rules should help alter the future impact of trucking and large vehicles on the environment and human health.

For instance, Mack Trucks is shifting their vehicle production to all-electric trash and logistics vehicles over the coming years to exceed these goals. Mack spokesman John Mies said of the new rules from the EPA that the company supports long-term zero emissions goals for trucks. Mack is part of Volvo Group, which manufactures heavy-duty trucks separately from Volvo’s passenger car division.

Britt Carmon, the federal clean vehicles advocate for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement that the new rules still leave more to be done, and that the EPA should “move quickly” to transition to zero-emissions trucks. 

“After two decades of inaction, EPA is finally moving to cut harmful truck tailpipe pollution,” Carmon said. “But these standards fall short, and the agency missed a critical opportunity to slash soot and smog and accelerate the shift to the cleanest vehicles.”

California’s new emissions rules for heavy-duty vehicles is 90% stronger than current national regulations, and the state regulators in California have criticized the EPA for not doing enough to move to electric trucks fast enough. The EPA says this new rule is just a first step on that journey toward a zero-emissions future for all vehicles.

How much difference will large vehicle pollution rules make?

The agency estimates the new truck emissions rules will result in up to 2,900 fewer premature deaths, 18,000 fewer cases of childhood asthma and 6,700 fewer hospital admissions.

In the spring of 2023, the EPA is expected to release its proposed “phase 3” greenhouse gas standards for heavy duty vehicles starting in model year 2027. The EPA is also expected to release new proposed light and medium-duty vehicle emissions standards for 2027 in spring 2023 to create a roadmap for shifting to all-electric vehicles in the next decade.

There is more to be done, but the update of the regulations for heavy truck emissions is certainly overdue and a step in the right direction. It is motivating vehicle manufacturers to accelerate development of electric vehicles for future trucking and delivery, as well as mass transit needs.



Lead image via Pexels