Cleaning up the commercial diesel truck industry

By Logan Dredske

In 2011, U.S. EPA and NHTSA established a national program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and set new fuel efficiency standards for commercial vehicles starting in 2014. The requirements of this program are a driving force that is causing manufacturers to advance diesel technologies to achieve more environmentally sustainable outcomes, and they are starting to pay off.

One way these emissions and fuel usage are being reduced is through advances in clean diesel truck engines and emissions control systems. Diesel Technology Forum recently released its research detailing the impact clean diesel truck technologies are having on the nation’s trucking fleet.

“Almost 3 million heavy-duty diesel commercial vehicles introduced in the U.S. from 2011 through 2016 are now on the road powered by the latest generation clean diesel engines.” said Allen Schaeffer, Executive Director of the Diesel Technology Forum. In addition to lower levels of carbon dioxide emissions and fuel savings, clean diesel trucks reduce air pollutants that can aggravate respiratory conditions such as asthma and bronchitis according to the California Healthline.

According to Figure 1, thirty-six states fall below the national average of having 30 percent of commercial trucks equipped with clean diesel technologies. Although approximately 30 percent of the nation’s trucking fleet is equipped with clean diesel technologies, 70 percent of trucks have yet to feature the sustainable upgrades.

Figure 1.  Percent of clean diesel technology equipped trucks by state.

Figure 1. Percent of clean diesel technology equipped trucks by state.

Approximately half a million clean diesel trucks were added to the national fleet in 2016. California is taking a proactive approach to boost its clean diesel truck fleet. According to the California Air Resources Board, regulations require newer trucks to meet specific clean diesel standards by 2012. In 2015, lighter and older/heavier trucks became subject to a replacement schedule, and nearly all trucks will have 2010 model-year engines or equivalent by 2023.

Although commercial trucks produce less than half of the transportation-related carbon dioxide emissions, electricity production, transportation, and industry rank as the largest emitters of carbon dioxide in the U.S., respectively.

Logan Dredske is a Project Assistant at SSTI.