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RTO Insider: EPA Issues Final Standards on Heavy-duty Truck Emissions

Posted by K Kaufman on Mar 31, 2024

RTO Insider reports on the U.S Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) final standards on heavy-duty truck emissions in the U.S. The article quoted United's Ryan Gallentine on the certainty the standards provide for truckmakers and fleet operators looking to move forward with vehicle and fleet electrification.

The final standards for greenhouse gas emissions from heavy-duty trucks, issued by EPA on March 29, attempt to strike a balance between environmental concerns about diesel fumes the trucks spew into the air and the economic and physical logistics of building out a zero-emission fleet and charging network.  

Aimed at cutting 1 billion tons of GHG emissions per year — and saving $3.5 billion for truckers — the rules provide a longer runway for manufacturers to meet emission-reduction targets that are initially less stringent than the proposed standards EPA issued in April 2023. This slower phase-in is offset by tougher goals in 2031 and 2032, in many cases stricter than initially proposed.  

The standards for three of the heaviest heavy-duty vehicles will go into effect on a staggered schedule. For day-cab “tractors” ― that is, semis without a sleeping compartment ― compliance will begin in 2028. The start date for heavy “vocational” vehicles ― a category covering a range of construction, maintenance and other work vehicles ― is in 2029; for tractors with sleeping compartments, it is in 2030. 

“In consideration of the opposing concerns raised by commenters, EPA believes it is critical to balance the public health and welfare need for GHG emissions reductions over the long term with the time needed for product development and manufacturing as well as infrastructure development in the near term,” the rule says. 

These changes notwithstanding, EPA Administrator Michael Regan hailed the final rules as “the strongest greenhouse gas standards for heavy-duty vehicles in history.” 

Speaking at a prerelease press call, Regan framed the standards as tackling heavy-duty trucking’s impacts on both climate change and public health. Transportation accounts for 29% of all U.S. emissions — more than any other sector — and heavy-duty trucks make up about a quarter of that total, according to EPA. 

Both Regan and National Climate Adviser Ali Zaidi also framed the rules as another piece of the Biden administration’s work on decarbonizing transportation and the economy, while boosting investment in the automotive industry and creating jobs. The new rules are part of EPA’s Clean Trucks Plan, which includes rules, released in 2023, limiting nitrogen oxide emissions from heavy-duty trucks, Regan said. 

EPA is estimating that operational savings for heavy-duty zero-emission vehicle (ZEVs) ― their total cost of ownership ― will offset their higher upfront costs, which are potentially more than twice the cost of a comparable diesel truck with an internal combustion engine (ICE). 

With EPA’s estimated $3.5 billion in savings for operators, payback on heavy-duty electric vehicles could happen within two to five years, depending on the type of truck. By 2032, when the standards are fully phased in, individual owners and drivers could be saving between $3,700 and $10,500 annually on fuel and maintenance, depending on vehicle type. 

EPA has also committed to ongoing consultation with stakeholders as the standards are implemented, “to learn from their experiences and gather relevant information and data,” according to the announcement. Based on stakeholder input, EPA may issue periodic reports or guidelines or consider modifications to the standards to be made through a future rule. 

The emission standards themselves are expressed in grams per ton-mile, agency jargon that does not easily translate into pounds of tailpipe carbon dioxide emissions. 

Despite Republican complaints that EPA is trying to force Americans into EVs, the new standards do not require truck manufacturers to make — or truck drivers to buy — ZEVs. Regan has stressed that the new rules are performance-based and “technology-neutral, allowing each manufacturer to choose what set of emission-control technologies works best for them, whether that’s advanced internal combustion engines, hybrid vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, battery electric trucks [or] hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.” 

The rules offer two scenarios of how different mixes of vehicles might be used to meet the standards and how percentages of ZEVs versus diesel trucks might change through 2032. Generally, the heavier the truck, the lower the percentage of ZEVs being predicted. 

However, the potential impact of the EPA standards is only one factor in a broader landscape of policy and market forces that could drive accelerated adoption of heavy-duty ZEVs over the next decade and beyond. 

California’s Advanced Clean Trucks (ACT) rule, now adopted by 11 other states, provides a different approach, requiring manufacturers to increase their percentages of ZEVs offered for sale in the state each year through 2035, in some cases to higher levels than those projected by EPA.  

The three companies together represent 70% of all medium- and heavy-duty trucks sold in the U.S., according to a Daimler press release. 

In January, the companies announced the formation of a new coalition called Powering America’s Commercial Transportation (PACT). The group says it will not advocate for specific technologies or policies; it instead intends to focus on educating industry stakeholders about the bottlenecks to expanding charging networks for ZEVs and looking for new solutions. 

Reactions to the new standards were mixed. 

Environmental and cleantech groups were mostly positive, though they lamented what they saw as EPA’s compromises with the trucking industry. 

Ryan Gallentine, managing director at Advanced Energy United, said the new rules will provide certainty for a range of industry players — truckmakers and private and public fleet operators — to move ahead with vehicle and fleet electrification and managed charging. 

“Electric trucks and buses provide a whole new business opportunity for fleet operators, who can take advantage of charge-management technology to maximize electricity savings for their vehicles and facilities,” Gallentine said. “That makes the switch to electric vehicles a force multiplier for communities, who will not only benefit from improved air but also a more energy efficient business environment.” 

On the industry side, the American Trucking Associations began lobbying against the rules as soon as EPA released its proposed version last April, arguing the agency should not change its existing standards. 

Truckmakers acknowledged EPA’s efforts to address their concerns but also stressed the need for a quick buildout of a charging network and ongoing federal support. 

Read the full article here.

Topics: EPA GHG Regs, United In The News, Electric Vehicles, Ryan Gallentine