EPA sets new emissions standards for heavy-duty vehicles in effort to fight climate change

The agency says the move will avoid 1 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

March 29, 2024, 1:29 PM

The Environmental Protection Agency announced its new emissions standards for heavy-duty vehicles on Friday, which the agency claims will avoid 1 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

The move comes in an election year when the Biden-Harris campaign is working to demonstrate achievements in their climate agenda.

The new standards impact vehicles such as freight trucks and buses manufactured for model years 2027-2032. This follows last week's announcement of updated standards for light and medium-duty vehicles.

"In finalizing these emissions standards for heavy-duty vehicles like trucks and buses, EPA is significantly cutting pollution from the hardest working vehicles on the road," EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a news release. "Building on our recently finalized rule for light- and medium-duty vehicles, EPA's strong and durable vehicle standards respond to the urgency of the climate crisis by making deep cuts in emissions from the transportation sector."

The new performance-based standards reduce the allowed emissions across manufacturer fleets, but are technology-neutral, according to the EPA. This means manufacturers can utilize different combinations of emissions control technologies in order to meet the emissions requirements, including advanced internal combustion engines, hybrids, battery electric vehicles and others.

Over the period covered by the new standards, model years 2027-2032, the required emissions reductions will gradually increase each year.

A trucks exhaust pipes are seen on Nov. 5, 2019 in Miami.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The administration noted in its announcement of the new rules that heavy-duty vehicles are "vital to the United States economy," but said that they do create about 25% of greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector.

"The 1 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions avoided by these standards is equivalent to the emissions from more than 13 million tanker trucks' worth of gasoline," the EPA said in the release. "With this action, the Biden-Harris Administration is continuing to deliver on the most ambitious climate agenda in history while advancing a historic commitment to environmental justice."

American Lung Association President and CEO Harold Wimmer celebrated the announcement in a statement on Friday.

"Transportation is the largest source of pollution driving climate change. These strong standards that will help drive toward a zero-emission future for trucks, buses and other heavy-duty vehicles are a critical part of the solution The American Lung Association celebrates this new rule, which will improve the health of people across the U.S.," Wimmer wrote.

An electric bus at the BYD Coach and Bus manufacturing facility in Lancaster, California, Feb. 2, 2023.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

The administration estimates the new standards will also provide $13 billion in net societal benefits via savings related to public health, the climate and for truck owners and operators.

"EPA's clean truck standards will cut one billion metric tons of climate pollution by 2055. They'll also reduce smog-forming nitrogen oxides by 53,000 tons in 2055," the Environmental Defense Fund noted. "And they'll save our country money -- $3.5 billion in average annual savings for fleets, $300 million in average annual health benefits and $13 billion in total annual societal benefits."

The Heavy-Duty Leadership Group, a self-described "informal alliance of the nation's leading heavy-duty manufacturers and supply companies," responded to the new standards Friday, emphasizing their own commitment to reducing emissions from their products. The companies also credited the EPA's prior rules for "accelerating the industry's adoption of advanced technologies while minimizing market disruption."

Cynthia Williams, Ford Motor Company's global director of sustainability, homologation and compliance, said the EPA's new rule is "challenging," but that "Ford is working aggressively to meet the moment."

"Our industry is making important progress to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in both light- and heavy-duty vehicles," Williams said in a statement. "We also need policymakers to pair emission standards with incentives and public investment so that we can continue to deliver on the next generation of vehicles and for our nation to lead the future of this industry."

But some in the trucking world are expressing more opposition to the announcement.

The American Trucking Association released a statement Friday saying the standards set "unachievable targets" that will create consequences across the U.S. supply chain and economy.

"ATA opposes this rule in its current form because the post-2030 targets remain entirely unachievable given the current state of zero-emission technology, the lack of charging infrastructure and restrictions on the power grid," ATA President and CEO Chris Spear said. "Given the wide range of operations required of our industry to keep the economy running, a successful emission regulation must be technology neutral and cannot be one-size-fits-all. Any regulation that fails to account for the operational realities of trucking will set the industry and America's supply chain up for failure."

The ATA objects to restrictions in the later years covered by this new set of standards, saying, "forced zero-emission vehicle penetration rates in the later years will drive only battery-electric and hydrogen investment, limiting fleets' choices with early-stage technology that is still unproven."