With the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) earlier today rolling out new proposed federal vehicle emissions standards, with a two-fold objective of spurring on the country’s transition to a clean vehicles future and combatting the climate crisis, there is a lot to monitor on that front, especially as it relates to the trucking market, and, by extension, over-the-road supply chain and logistics operations.
In its proposals, EPA said that these emissions standards are geared towards light-, medium-, heavy-duty vehicles for model year 2027 and beyond, explaining they “would significantly reduce climate and other harmful air pollution, unlocking significant benefits for public health, especially in communities that have borne the greatest burden of poor air quality,” and “At the same time, the proposed standards wold lower maintenance costs and deliver significant fuel savings for drivers and truck operators.”
What’s more, EPA observed that through 2055, EPA projects that the proposed standards would avoid nearly 10 billion tons of CO2 emissions (equivalent to more than twice the total U.S. CO2 emissions in 2022), reduce oil imports by approximately 20 billion barrels, and estimates that the benefits of the proposed standards would exceed costs by at least $1 trillion.
Looking at the heavy-duty truck proposed standards, entitled the “Greenhouse Gas Standards for Heavy-Duty Vehicles—Phase 3,” EPA said that these standards would apply to heavy-duty vocational vehicles, including delivery trucks and trucks typically used to haul freight, among others. It also noted that these standards complement pollutant standards for Model Year 2027 and beyond heavy-duty trucks finalized in December 2022 as the third phase of its Clean Trucks Plan.
“These ‘Phase 3’ greenhouse gas standards maintain the flexible structure that EPA previously designed through a robust stakeholder engagement process to reflect the diverse nature of the heavy-duty industry,” said the EPA. “Like the light- and medium-duty proposal, the heavy-duty proposal uses performance-based standards that enable manufacturers to achieve compliance efficiently based on the composition of their fleets. The projected net benefits of the heavy-duty proposal range from $180 billion to $320 billion. The proposal is projected to avoid 1.8 billion tons of CO2 through 2055, equivalent to eliminating all greenhouse gas emissions from the entire current U.S. transportation sector for an entire year, and deliver additional health benefits by reducing other pollutants from these vehicles. The standards would result in improved air quality nationwide, and those who live near major roadways and are disproportionately exposed to vehicle pollution and heavy-duty activity, which often includes low-income populations and communities of color, would benefit most directly.”
The EPA’s proposals received support from Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.) Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
Carper pointed out that these proposals would help to make significant progress to counter climate change, reduce money spent on fuel, and to insulate the U.S. from the volatility of the global oil market, adding he is hopeful a final rule is issued by the end of 2023.
On the trucking side, American Trucking Associations (ATA) President and CEO took what could be viewed as a cautious approach to the EPA’s Phase 3 proposals.
“The trucking industry starts at ‘yes,’” said Spear. “We share the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving fuel efficiency and believe any regulation must be practical, achievable, and based on sound science. Our members have a long history of adopting the cleanest emissions technology on the road today and are making the necessary investments to support a decarbonized future. While these standards are directed at manufacturers, it is fleets—the customers and end-users of this equipment—who will ultimately determine their level of success. The Phase 3 standards must take into account the complex challenges and operating conditions facing motor carriers as we manage the transition to a zero-emission future while simultaneously moving more than 72 percent of the economy’s freight.
Spear added that in reviewing the proposed rule, ATA will remain engaged in the regulatory process to ensure the agency arrives at a regulation that has realistic equipment adoption timelines, is technologically feasible, and will not cause additional inflationary pressures if finalized.
While these new proposals were issued today, it stands to reason that they were expected within expectations of what was coming. What happens next, like most things coming out of Washington, remains to be seen. But one thing that cannot be unseen, regardless of political or ideological beliefs and perspectives, is that our planet is getting warmer, oil prices could be on the rise again, based on recent actions taken by OPEC, and fossil fuel usage is not viewed as a long-term path. Senator Carper said he would like to see a final rule by the end of this year. Is that realistic or is that too optimistic? It is too early to tell, but it will certainly be worth keeping a close eye on.