port pollution

What do the new heavy-duty engine emission standards mean for you?

Categories: Trucking.

Transportation is one of the largest contributors to carbon emissions in the US. To meet our goals for reducing emissions, changes in transportation practices will have to drive significant shifts. However, there’s debate among experts about how emissions cuts should be regulated, and where the most efficient measures can be put into place.

Back in March, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed new nitrous oxide (NOx) emissions standards for heavy-duty truck engines to help reduce smog forming pollution. The Biden administration will soon establish new standards to go into effect in 2027. What are they and what is the potential impact?

What is the Heavy-Duty 2027 and Beyond Clean Trucks Plan?

This broad-reaching plan for EPA heavy-duty truck emission standards will gradually reduce emissions output in a significant way over time. Unlike many other initiatives that are focused on large infrastructure, this plan would impact most truckers directly, from single owner-operators to owners of large fleets.

Currently, there are two options proposed for EPA emissions standards:

  • Option 1 is a two-step process that would set a stringency increase first in model year (MY) 2027 and a second in MY 2031.
  • Option 2 would immediately jump to full implementation of a NOx standard in the model year 2027.

The first option would lower truck emissions by 90% compared to current norms, with the emissions from the total fleet of heavy-duty trucks decreasing by as much as 60% by 2045. According to EPA truck emissions research, the second option would achieve overall less NOx emissions reductions than option 1.

There’s also a proposal in the works to extend emissions warranty periods, which would increase the number of useful life miles covered under warranty, and some movement toward legislating improvements to overall engine serviceability. It’s estimated that this new rule could provide as much as $250 billion in public health benefits.

What does the trucking industry say about this proposed bill?

Despite health considerations, the trucking industry says costs are likely to outweigh any benefits. Many truckers argue they can’t afford to buy new power units or new vehicles with the updated technology to align with the proposed standards.

There’s also a lot of pushback on the timeline, and how ready the industry could really be by that date.

“Any final rulemaking must better prioritize affordability for owner-operator drivers who will be required to purchase and install new equipment,” Owner-Operator Independent Driver Association President and CEO Todd Spencer stated. “This rulemaking must ensure that drivers and carriers who are investing in new vehicles are getting a fair deal and will not be constantly sidelined from their profession due to costly and repeated breakdowns.”

Other conversations about which implementation strategy will be most effective are underway. Option two is seen as more feasible by Rick Todd, president and CEO of the South Carolina Trucking Association. “While this rule is directed at manufacturers, it is trucking companies buying new technologies that determine the success or failure in the implementation of every trucking emission regulation,” he says.

Other experts worry the rule may be unworkable in certain carrier’s business models, and could jeopardize jobs or actually slow environmental progress as pushback mounts and milestones planned on paper are missed in the real world. Many additional questions remain about the kind of infrastructure needed to power and maintain clean energy fleets, especially in parts of the country where services are limited or the existing power grid is inadequate.

What comes next?

The new regulations will come into play soon, setting a timeline into action. It’s expected that the weaker of the two options will be selected and — if that’s the case — California’s Clean Air Act will actually be more stringent. California will have to apply for a waiver from the EPA to have tougher tailpipe pollution standards.

It’s also expected that the Inflation Reduction Act could help with the burden. Infrastructure investment in electric vehicles, charging stations, and portside machinery will help to cut emissions and streamline operations across the country. The act provides grants and incentives aimed at cutting emissions, including up to $40,000 toward the purchase of a new heavy-duty truck. This will go a long way toward supporting a clean energy transition, but it’s unclear if it will go far enough.

It’s also expected that the price of this new technology will drop as it becomes more commonly used and more widely available. Currently, green technology is somewhat niche in the supply chain. But as more funding and resources pour into the industry, competition from newer, leaner and smarter tech firms will enter the sphere, and eventually costs will go down.

Be ready for the unexpected

In the meantime, partnering with a 3PL with a background in building efficiencies at the port can help reduce total emissions and cut costs without substantial infrastructural investment.

GlobeCon, located at the Port of Los Angeles and Long Beach, has years of experience managing drayage, connecting intermodal transport, and offering scalable portside warehousing to make backstock more accessible in uncertain times.

Get in touch with GlobeCon for a reliable partner at the port.