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Green trucks will pay less in tolls. Image courtesy Volvo Trucks.

Air Quality

New Report Finds Clean Trucks & Buses Will Save Thousands of Lives & Billions of Dollars, Slash Air Pollution, Create Jobs

Courtesy of Environmental Defense Fund (

Air pollution standards that ensure all new heavy-duty trucks and buses sold for urban and community use are zero-emitting by 2035, and all such vehicles sold are zero-emission by 2040, would have substantial benefits, according to a new report by Environmental Defense Fund.

Those standards would save a cumulative total of more than 57,000 lives, slash the amount of climate pollution and smog in our air, create jobs, and produce almost half a trillion dollars in health benefits by mid-century.

“Getting clean freight trucks on our roads is one of the most important things we can do to protect our health, climate and economy,” said Peter Zalzal, EDF’s senior director for transportation. “A rapid-transition to zero-emitting freight trucks and buses will reduce dangerous air pollution — pollution that disproportionately burdens lower income neighborhoods and communities of color. Clean trucks are also essential to meet our nation’s climate goals and create good-paying American jobs.”

As shown in Figure 1, standards that achieve 100 percent new ZEV sales by 2040 would eliminate tailpipe CO2 emissions from the heavy-duty fleet by 2050 – one of the biggest contributors to the nation’s GHG inventory : Report: Graph  courtesy of Clean Trucks, Clean Air, American Jobs:
Eliminating pollution from all new truck and buses by 2040 — and urban and community applications by 2035 — will save thousands of lives, cut climate pollution, and result in shared economic benefit

The report, Clean Trucks, Clean Air, American Jobs, analyzes the effects of eliminating tailpipe pollution from medium and heavy-duty vehicles — including buses, semis and other long-haul trucks, and the “last-mile” trucks that deliver packages to American homes.

The report found that eliminating that pollution in freight trucks used in urban and community areas by 2035, and eliminating pollution from all new freight trucks and buses by 2040, would provide sweeping benefits:

  • It will prevent a sum total of more than 57,000 premature deaths by 2050.
  • It will eliminate a sum total of more than 4.7 billion metric tons of climate pollution by 2050.
  • It will significantly reduce two main components of smog — nitrogen oxides pollution by a sum total of more than 10 million tons by 2050, and particulate pollution by a sum total of almost 200,000 tons by 2050.
  • It will save $485 billion in health and environmental benefits alone as a result of pollution reductions.

Heavy-duty trucks and buses are a major source of the unhealthy air pollution that puts all Americans at risk, with the health burden disproportionately impacting people of color and lower income families. More than 20,000 Americans die prematurely each year as a result of motor vehicle pollution on our roads and highways. Heavy-duty trucks and buses are only about four percent of all vehicles on our roads, but they are the largest contributor to oxides of nitrogen pollution and particulate pollution of all highway vehicles. People who live closest to our nation’s roads, highways, ports, freight depots and distribution centers face the greatest health risks from that pollution.

America’s heavy-duty trucks and buses are also responsible for more than 420 million tons of climate pollution each year — more than the entire country of Australia.

Passenger cars have been leading the way for zero emission technologies, but momentum is quickly building for a transition to clean trucks in the medium and heavy-duty sector. The Biden campaign set a goal that all new buses be zero emissions by 2030, and major truck manufacturers including Daimler, Volvo, Cummins, General Motors, and Ford are investing in clean technologies and setting targets to eliminate tailpipe pollution by mid-century. Large shipping companies, including Walmart, Amazon and Ikea, have started switching their fleets to zero-emission freight trucks. Another recent report, which EDF commissioned from MJ Bradley and Associates, documents the market trends towards zero-emitting freight trucks and buses.

You can read Clean Trucks, Clean Air, American Jobs here.

Featured image courtesy of Volvo Trucks.

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