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NewsRegulatory AgenciesTop StoriesTrucking

EPA proposes stricter zero-emission standards for trucks

Trucking groups warn of burdensome costs if new rules end up too restrictive

New federal air pollution standards for heavy-duty trucks beginning with the 2027 model year are forecast to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by up to 90% by 2031 compared with today’s standards, according to a Biden administration proposal.

The proposed stricter standards, which the Environmental Protection Agency confirmed in February were forthcoming and formally announced on Monday by Vice President Kamala Harris, would be the first time truck emission requirements were updated in 20 years.

“These new standards will drastically cut dangerous pollution by harnessing recent advancements in vehicle technologies from across the trucking industry as it advances toward a zero-emissions transportation future,” said EPA Administrator Michael Regan.

In addition to strengthening NOx regulations, EPA and the U.S. Department of Transportation will be using an upcoming Heavy-Duty GHG Phase 3 program to set new greenhouse gas standards, that will take effect in 2030, the administration confirmed.

“Because costs have fallen and state and local policy will drive deployment, zero-emission trucks and buses are entering the market much faster than anticipated when rules were previously set,” according to the White House. “To account for this, EPA is considering technical updates to its standards for model years 2027 to 2029 to better reflect new levels of market penetration in segments with expected zero-emission vehicle deployment.”

The 1,374-page proposed rule, which has yet to be published in the Federal Register, discusses areas where the federal proposal differs from the California Air Resources Board (CARB) Heavy-Duty Omnibus Rulemaking. EPA is requesting comments on “whether it is appropriate to harmonize the federal and CARB regulatory programs … and the benefits or challenges if EPA were to finalize particular aspects of its program that are or are not fully aligned” with CARB.

EPA noted in the proposal that it was asked to consider — but will not be proposing — a zero-emission sales mandate, a nationwide requirement for manufacturers to produce a portion of their new vehicle fleet as zero-emission. California had adopted such a provision as part of its Advanced Clean Trucks program.

EPA’s proposal outlines two regulatory options for new NOx standards. It estimates that by 2045, when the program would be fully implemented and when most of the regulated fleet would have turned over the most ambitious option would result in the following annual benefits:

  • Annual monetary net benefits of up to $31 billion (assuming 3% inflation discount rate) or up to $28 billion (assuming 7% inflation discount rate).
  • Up to 2,100 fewer premature deaths.
  • 6,700 fewer hospital admissions and emergency department visits.
  • 18,000 fewer cases of asthma onset in children.
  • 78,000 fewer lost days of work.
  • 1.1 million fewer lost school days for children.

Too high a price tag?

The American Trucking Associations and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association were concerned about the costs associated with the proposed new standards while maintaining that they supported cutting truck emissions.

“We will be looking very closely at the proposal put forth today by the administration and working with them to shape an outcome that builds on those reductions, while not hurting the reliability of the trucks and trailers we purchase, nor imposing unreasonable or unworkable costs on our industry,” commented ATA President and CEO Chris Spear.

“We want to ensure that the Biden administration sets one, single national NOx emissions standard and that such standard can be achieved with workable, reliable technology — anything less than that will be extremely problematic for ATA and our members.”

“The EPA’s proposal highlights the projected millions of fewer lost school days for children, but does not say much about the millions of dollars in equipment and vehicle costs that owner-operators will have to foot the bill for,” OOIDA stated.

“We believe there is a more realistic path forward to reducing commercial vehicle emissions that actually involves listening to men and women in the trucking industry. We hope EPA will get back to that strategy as they develop the Final Cleaner Trucks Initiative Rule throughout the rest of the year.”

Click for more FreightWaves articles by John Gallagher.

John Gallagher

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.