The Biden administration announced on Monday that it is proposing new pollution regulation rulings that would clean up the pollution generated by heavy-duty vehicles, including buses and tractor-trailer rigs, encouraging new technologies during the next two decades.
The proposal released Monday by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would cut releases of nitrogen oxides. This would be a new requirement that would require the industry to cut smog and soot forming nitrogen oxide emissions by up to 90% per heavy-duty vehicle over current standards by 2031. The emissions can cause respiratory problems, such as asthma and other lung conditions, in humans.
New rules, if finalized, would start in 2027 to limit nearly 27 million heavy trucks and buses nationwide. This EPA action would be the first update to current regulations in 20 years, and the White House said the measure would have significant public health impacts.
Although truck manufacturers are working on battery-electric and hydrogen fuel cell powertrains, the EPA says the proposal is not a zero-emissions truck requirement. Rather, the agency says there are pollution control devices in development that can keep diesels in use and still clean the air.
The EPA said the stricter standards would prevent up to 2,100 premature deaths, cut hospital admissions and emergency room visits by 6,700 and prevent 18,000 cases of child asthma.
Monday’s announcement is just the first of several steps the administration is taking to cut pollution from medium and heavy-duty vehicles. During his speech Monday, EPA Administrator Michael Regal called Monday’s announcement “only the first step in EPA’s three-part plan” to get to a zero-emission freight sector.
Regal said, “The agency would aim to cut air and climate pollution from medium-duty vehicles in its second step. The third step will establish new and significantly stronger greenhouse gas standards for heavy-duty vehicles starting as soon as model year 2030.”
In conclusion Regal said, “We’re taking this three-step approach because the freight and trucking sector is broad and complex and because we cannot afford the health, environmental injustice and climate consequences.”
Meanwhile, the EPA said that the rule is also expected to set updated greenhouse gas standards for certain types of commercial vehicles, a measure aiming to mitigate climate change.
The transportation sector is the largest contributor to climate change in the U.S. as it makes up 29% of planet-warming emissions. Fossil fuels burned by vehicles are also major contributors to air pollution, which can have harmful impacts on human health.