Biden Administration Wants Big Trucks to Cut Smog Emissions by 90 Percent

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a proposal Monday that would require large trucks to cut down on their smog and soot emissions.

Under the proposal, the trucking industry would have to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by 90 percent for every truck by 2031, according to the Associated Press. In a statement, the EPA said the proposal's goal is to "deliver significant and needed public health benefits," as cleaner air could reduce cases of asthma as well as deaths and hospitalizations from breathing problems.

This is the first step in the EPA's Cleaner Trucks Initiative, which aims to reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) and greenhouse gas emissions from heavy-duty trucks through a series of rules released over several years. This first rule will apply to trucks starting in the model year 2027, according to the EPA's website.

EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in the statement that an estimated 72 million people live near freight truck routes in the U.S., with most being people of color and people with lower incomes.

"These overburdened communities are directly exposed to pollution that causes respiratory and cardiovascular problems, among other serious and costly health effects," Regan said. "These new standards will drastically cut dangerous pollution by harnessing recent advancements in vehicle technologies from across the trucking industry as it advances toward a zero-emissions transportation future."

On its website, the EPA said, "From 2007 to 2017, NOx emissions in the U.S. dropped by more than 40 percent. But there is more work to be done."

When the overall fleet of trucks is considered, and as older vehicles are retired and replaced by newer and cleaner vehicles, the proposal will reduce NOx emissions by 60 percent by the year 2045, the EPA said in its statement.

"The benefits of the proposed rule would exceed its costs by billions of dollars," the agency said. Among the benefits would be 18,000 fewer cases of childhood onset asthma, 3.1 million fewer cases of asthma and allergic rhinitis symptoms, 6,700 fewer emergency room visits and hospital admissions, and 2,100 fewer premature deaths.

Similar standards were recently adopted in California, which has proposed installing more roadside pollution testers and issuing "pollution tickets." Trucks are responsible for about 50 percent of annual pollution in the state but make up just 3 percent of the vehicles on its roads.

The EPA added that there will be a comment period in which stakeholders and the public can voice their support or concerns about the proposal.

Update 03/07/22, 1:45 p.m. ET: This story was updated to add more information and background.

FedEx, truck, California
The Environmental Protection Agency has released a proposal that would require trucks to cut smog emissions. Above, a FedEx truck travels along Interstate 10 near Palm Springs, California, on February 27, 2019. Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images