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Driving Down Emissions: EPA’s New Greenhouse Gas Standards for Trucks

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On March 29, 2024, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established the most stringent greenhouse gas standards, covering new medium and heavy-duty trucks, including delivery trucks, school, and public transportation buses, and large vehicles for the period of 2027-2032, as reported by Forbes on April 1. The EPA stated that the final standards will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 60% by 2032 when the program is fully implemented, reduce 1 billion tons of carbon pollution, and prevent 55,000 tons of smog pollution. The media reported this news.

In the U.S., medium and heavy-duty diesel trucks account for less than 6% of vehicles on the road but emit 25% of greenhouse gas emissions from the entire transportation sector. Tractor trailers, delivery vans, and large pickup trucks emit 45% of harmful nitrogen oxide emissions and 57% of fine particles, known as PM 2.5, from this sector. Both are associated with premature death and chronic diseases, including heart disease, lung cancer, stroke, and childhood asthma.

Like the Clean Car Standards recently finalized by the EPA, the Clean Truck Rule emphasizes performance-based and technology-neutrality. Truck manufacturers can achieve their final goal through various technologies, including electric powertrains, hydrogen fuel cells, improved diesel engines, aerodynamic design, and lightweight materials. Considering the public and private investment in electric trucks and buses and the cost-effectiveness for drivers, operators, and manufacturers, they will likely adopt electric powertrain technology to meet their objectives.

The EPA’s standards for purifying the exhaust gases from this relatively small sector are expected to have a very positive impact.

Purifying the exhaust gases of large vehicles, in particular, provides significant benefits to poor urban communities, as Forbes highlighted. Diesel trucks are often concentrated in metropolitan areas around ports, industrial warehouses, and highways, primarily in low-income communities of color. The EPA estimates that approximately 72 million people live within 200 meters of truck freight transportation routes and are exposed to air pollution at disproportionately high levels.

Last month, the Heavy Duty Leadership Group, including Ford, Cummins, BorgWarner, and Eaton, issued a statement supporting solid standards.

Truck manufacturers are already making substantial investments in transitioning from diesel to zero-emission vehicles. Daimler, the largest manufacturer of heavy vehicles in the U.S., aims to sell only carbon-neutral cars by 2039. Last July, Daimler predicted that zero-emission vehicle sales would account for 40% of the market share in North America by 2030. Navistar and Volvo Trucks have set a goal to sell 50% zero-emission trucks by 2030.

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