According to The New York Times, the Biden administration is tightening pollution standards for all vehicles on the road. But one group of vehicles is having tailpipe standards tightened for the first time in more than 20 years. This group includes tractor-trailers, buses, and other heavy-duty vehicles. These vehicles are responsible for much of our road pollution.
The Department of Transportation recently announced changes to its fuel emission regulations. Many of these regulations apply to all types of vehicles.
The changes will significantly impact heavy equipment operators. Anyone who works in the infrastructure industry could be affected. Many are asking what these new regulations are and how they might impact their jobs.
Here’s what anyone working in the infrastructure industry needs to know about the new regulations.
The Current Fuel Emission Regulations
Heavy-duty vehicles are the largest source of nitrogen oxide (NOx) pollution. Even though heavy-duty vehicles account for less than 10% of vehicles on the road, they contribute 23% of all emissions. Transportation is also the largest source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the United States. It makes up 25% of all emissions (source: ucsusa.org).
It’s not a question of should the U.S. continue to eliminate pollution caused by these vehicles. The questions become how, how fast, and at what cost.
The last update to truck emission standards by the federal government was in 2001. At that time, the E.P.A. required commercial trucks to cut emissions of NOx by 95% over 10 years. According to the E.P.A., that rule contributed to a 40% drop in national NOx emissions.
Last year, the E.P.A. announced a three-year Clean Trucks Plan. The plan aims to set forth a series of regulation changes that will reduce GHG emissions and other pollutants from heavy-duty trucks. A zero-emission heavy equipment industry is the ultimate goal.
A regulation change proposal from the E.P.A. came on March 28, 2022. The proposal was for stricter standards to reduce heavy-duty vehicle NOx engine pollution starting with model year 2027.
Additionally, it aims to set stricter GHG standards for specific commercial vehicle categories. The E.P.A. hopes that by 2045 we’ll see a 60% drop in those emissions.
The standards are to keep on track with President Biden’s Executive Order, Strengthening American Leadership in Clean Cars and Trucks. Biden’s order is to make heavy-duty vehicles as clean as possible. The ultimate goal? Zero emission heavy-duty vehicles.
Approved Changes to 2024 Fuel Emission Regulations
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards determine how many miles per gallon a vehicle must get. NHTSA has CAFE standards for light trucks and passenger vehicles. They set different standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks and engines.
The NHTSA proposed new fuel-efficiency standards last August but recently revised them. Under the revised CAFE standards, by 2026, the average new passenger vehicle will get 49 mpg. The new standards will increase fuel efficiency by 8% annually for model years 2024–2025 and 10% annually for model year 2026.
The E.P.A. created a set of parallel rules that said passenger vehicles would be required to achieve an average of 55 mpg by 2026. The E.P.A. estimates that the new standard would prevent the release of 3.1 billion tons of carbon dioxide through 2050. It should save car owners $420 billion in fuel costs.
Perhaps a more significant concern may be NOx emissions standards. The best way to reduce NOx emissions is to stop polluting from the tailpipe. ‘Tailpipe’ emission standards, according to DieselNet.com, “specify the maximum amount of pollutants allowed in exhaust gases discharged from an internal combustion engine.”
These changes to the new fuel emission regulations are set to reduce NOx emissions. These are from vehicles classified as heavy-duty. According to Diesel.net, heavy-duty vehicles are defined as “vehicles of gross vehicle weight rating of above 8,500 lbs. in the federal jurisdiction and above 14,000 lbs. in California (model year 1995 and later).”
The plan aims to cut NOx emissions by between 47%–60% by 2045. But it could be at the cost of four thousand dollars per vehicle or more. However, it also aims to increase the longevity of truck engines and their emissions systems. This should help save money on the back end.
It puts many heavy-duty engine and vehicle manufacturers in a tight spot. Many are still dealing with the costs of GHG emissions and fuel economy standards that were applied from model year 2017. Those in California also have CARB emission standards to consider.
How Will These Changes Impact Infrastructure Workers?
The infrastructure industry is one of the biggest polluters in the world. No one in the industry argues that better air quality shouldn’t be a priority. They’re just wondering if other solutions could better get us there without hurting the economy and jobs of those in the infrastructure industry.
Even though the EPA estimates that the economic benefits of the new standards could be up to $250 billion, truckers and heavy equipment manufacturers say the rule is too stringent and costly (source: Institute of Energy Research).
Short term, there likely could be a shortage of vehicles on the market that meet the new standards. The goal is to increase sales of all-electric trucks in the United States, but in 2020, electric trucks made up only about 1.5% of total truck sales. We have a long way to go to get those numbers up.
The infrastructure industry will need to be proactive in updating its fleets. Some companies may choose to purchase used trucks that have already been retrofitted with the new technology.
For operators who work in the infrastructure industry, these new fuel emission standards could significantly impact their job and the success of their companies.
Smaller heavy equipment operators may not be able to handle the costs. More prominent companies may need to impose layoffs to meet the costs of the new standards.
Stay Up-to-Date on Fuel Emission Regulations
Fuel efficiency is essential when it comes to heavy-duty machinery. New standards are forcing manufacturers and firms to update their equipment with more fuel-efficient engines.
Ultimately this may mean a little more maintenance to the newer equipment, but the overall cost should be less for the business owners because there will be less demand for diesel and less money spent on fuel. You might wonder if you’ll be able to incur the initial costs the regulations will require.
If you have any questions about the the latest fuel emissions regulations, don’t hesitate to contact our experts for assistance.