Biden Administration Acknowledges "Challenge" With New Truck Emissions Rule

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by Tyler Durden
Tuesday, Apr 02, 2024 - 11:00 PM

By John Gallagher of FreightWaves,

The Biden administration acknowledged that its aggressive push to decarbonize trucking will be costly — but that the federal government will be here to help.

“The overarching challenge is aligning the market-driven desire from fleets to adopt zero-emission freight vehicles with the resources required to make it successful, and right now, they cost more,” said Gabe Klein, executive director of the U.S. Joint Office of Energy and Transportation.

Speaking to NPR before the release on Friday of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s new phase-three truck emissions rule, Klein said that “cost parity” has yet to be reached that would make electric trucks as affordable. A new Class 8 diesel truck costs roughly $180,000 compared with up to $400,000 for a battery-electric truck, according to estimates.

“That’s why the federal government is providing subsidies, to bring it down closer to cost parity,” he said. “I will also say the charging infrastructure is of course a limiting factor. So we need to make sure everybody has access, not just the big fleets and companies.”

EPA’s “Greenhouse Gas Emissions Standards for Heavy-Duty Vehicles – Phase 3” final rule, which applies to model years 2027 through 2032, avoids 1 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions — equivalent to the emissions from more than 13 million tanker trucks’ worth of gasoline, according to the agency. EPA also estimated $13 billion in annualized public health benefits.

“In finalizing these emissions standards for heavy-duty vehicles like trucks and buses, EPA is significantly cutting pollution from the hardest working vehicles on the road,” commented EPA Administrator Michael Regan. “Building on our recently finalized rule for light- and medium-duty vehicles, EPA’s strong and durable vehicle standards respond to the urgency of the climate crisis by making deep cuts in emissions from the transportation sector.”

Timelines loosened

According to the rule’s preamble, the new standards for heavy-duty trucks include less stringent standards for all vehicle categories in model years (MY) 2027, 2028, 2029 and 2030 than had been originally proposed last year.

In addition, while emissions standards for sleeper cabs in the final rule begin in MY2030 as proposed, they are less stringent for that year and for MY2031. However, they are equivalent in stringency to what EPA had proposed for MY2032, the preamble notes.

While placating environmental groups, much of the trucking firmly opposes the rule despite adjustments made to the final rule.

“The post-2030 targets remain entirely unachievable given the current state of zero-emission technology, the lack of charging infrastructure and restrictions on the power grid,” commented American Trucking Associations President and CEO Chris Spear.

He stressed that while the final rule includes lower zero-emission vehicle rates for the initial model years, rates in the later years will drive battery-electric and hydrogen investment and limit other potential zero-emission options.

“While we are disappointed with today’s rule, we will continue to work with EPA to address its shortcomings and advance emission-reduction targets and timelines that are both realistic and durable,” Spear said.

Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association President Todd Spencer called the new rules “unworkable” requirements.

“This administration appears more focused on placating extreme environmental activists who have never been inside a truck than the small business truckers who ensure that Americans have food in their grocery stores and clothes on their backs,” Spencer said.

Daimler throws in support

But not all companies involved in heavy-duty trucking opposed the rule, particularly companies that have been investing heavily in zero-emission technologies, like vehicle manufacturer Daimler Truck North America (DTNA). The company had lobbied EPA for less aggressive timelines when the rule was proposed.

“We thank the agency for addressing industry concern about the challenges of the early years of the rule and we remain committed to upholding the spirit of this regulation,” commented DTNA vice president Sean Waters.

“Ultimately, the successful transition of the commercial vehicle industry is dependent on the availability of reliable zero-emission charging and refueling infrastructure and the ability to conduct business at a reasonable cost of ownership,” he added.

Charging availability and cost was questioned by much of the trucking industry, which commissioned a recent study estimating the cost to install charging infrastructure at $1 trillion.

Incentives needed

The Biden administration’s Klein pushed back on cost concerns, however, pointing to incentives provided at the federal level.

“We’ve already invested $253 million through the Department of Transportation — that’s charging and fueling infrastructure grants — just recently,” he said.

“But there’s also a great deal of private sector funding. And really the goal here is to supplement the private sector, not to supplant their funding.”