EPA’s New Heavy-Duty Truck Rule a Step Forward but Risks Leaving Communities Behind

Statement by Steven Higashide, Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Mar 29, 2024

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its final “Phase 3” rule to reduce emissions from heavy-duty trucks. This rule would set stricter limits on emissions from new heavy-duty trucks sold in the U.S. and encourage the adoption of zero-emission electric trucks. The rule will bring emission reduction benefits and help move the trucking sector toward zero-emission vehicles, though it could have gone much further in addressing a significant threat to public health and the climate, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

Below is a statement by Steven Higashide, director of the Clean Transportation Program at UCS.

“Trucks are a vital part of the economy, but heavy-duty truck pollution is a major threat to public health and contributor to climate change. The EPA is taking a step toward reducing the climate impacts of trucking, starting in 2027 and increasing in the subsequent years to cut global warming emissions. But these standards delay improvements in the largest vehicles and should have gone further to encourage greater deployment of zero-emission electric trucks, which are an increasingly available, viable, and cost-competitive option for a wide variety of uses.

“There’s no question that EPA has an obligation to address the harms of trucks. Heavy- and medium-duty trucks make up only 10% of the vehicles on the road but contribute 28% of transportation-related global warming pollution, along with 45% of nitrogen oxides and 57% of fine particulate matter from on-road vehicles. Over 1,000 scientists called for the strongest possible rule and this rule falls short.

“While this rule may move the market in the right direction, there’s too much wiggle room to guarantee the zero-emission truck deployment needed to help communities around the country. Our analysis suggests this rule might accelerate the roll-out of smaller electric commercial vehicles, like box and delivery trucks. But the rule fails to send a strong signal to decarbonize larger vehicles, like semis. We have the technology to be more ambitious and missed the opportunity to do more to clean up the freight sector, especially the heaviest and most polluting vehicles.

“The fight for cleaner trucks and cleaner air doesn’t end here. This rule must be part of a larger strategy to reduce pollution, invest in better infrastructure and a renewable grid, and get more electric vehicles into the country’s heavy-duty trucking fleet. Recent announcements about EV charging corridors are a positive step. These rules and investments must also be paired with early, meaningful engagement with affected communities and real monitoring and enforcement to make sure the rules deliver on their promise and polluters are held accountable. We can’t transform our transportation system overnight, but it’s vital to use every tool available to move us toward that cleaner, healthier future that communities across the country deserve.”