New Generation of Diesel-Powered Trucks Vital to Achieving Near-Term, Sustained Progress on Climate and Clean Air Goals

The Diesel Technology Forum issued the following statement on the recently announced Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between 15 states and the District of Columbia concerning the goal of achieving 100 percent zero-emission commercial truck sales by 2050

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The Diesel Technology Forum issued the following statement on the recently announced Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between 15 states and the District of Columbia concerning the goal of achieving 100 percent zero-emission commercial truck sales by 2050.

“While the recently announced MOU takes a long view for commercial trucks in the region to be all electric, there are equally important proven and available near-term opportunities to advance progress for cleaner air and lower greenhouse gas emissions right now.  Rapidly accelerating the turnover of the existing fleet to the newest generation of diesel technology as well as expanding the use of low-carbon advanced biofuels can deliver benefits today, and should not be overlooked,” noted Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the Diesel Technology Forum, a not-for-profit association representing manufacturers of diesel engines and equipment, key suppliers of emissions control and other technologies and fuel producers.

“Diesel is the technology of choice for America’s trucking industry because of its unique combination of features: the most energy efficient internal combustion engine, power density, driving range, reliability, durability and widely available fueling, servicing and parts networks.  Continuous improvement that has now achieved near zero emissions, improving energy efficiency and capabilities of using low-carbon renewable biodiesel fuels, ensure diesel’s place in the future.

“Since 2010, a new generation of diesel technology has become the standard for heavy-duty trucks, delivering reductions of 98 percent of emissions of particulate matter and nitrogen oxide emissions.  Getting more of this generation of vehicle into the hands of truckers now will pay large benefits in terms of lower emissions of nitrogen oxides and particulate matter, particularly trucks operating in the most sensitive communities.

“According to the Diesel Technology Forum’s analysis of 2018-2019 U.S. vehicles in operation data (Class 3-8) provided by IHS Markit, 43 percent of the nearly 11 million diesel-powered commercial vehicles on U.S. roads – from box delivery trucks to 18-wheelers – are now powered by the newest generation of diesel technologies (MY 2010 and newer).  Over just four years, the percentage of new-generation diesel trucks on America’s roads has nearly doubled – up from just 25.7 percent of the fleet in 2015.  Even by 2040, IHS Markit projects that the newest-generation diesel technologies will retain the majority share of Class 8 vehicle sales.

“In the states covered by this MOU, 43 percent of registered diesel trucks in operation are of this newest generation, meaning that 57 percent are of an older generation that have higher emissions and lower fuel efficiency, making the opportunity for accelerating turnover substantial.

“Like cars, commercial vehicles are now subject to stringent fuel economy and greenhouse gas reduction requirements.  Unlike cars, trucks are far more durable and longer lived with an estimated service life of about 23 years.  Replacing an older less efficient Class 8 tractor-trailer size truck with a new more efficient diesel model can eliminate almost 10 tons of greenhouse gas emissions during its lifetime.  By 2027, EPA estimates that these more efficient trucks that meet these stringent standards will eliminate over 1 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

“One impediment to investment in new commercial truck technology of any kind is the 12 percent federal excise tax now levied on new truck sales.  The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated weak markets for replacing vehicles as truck dealers report that new truck sales are down 70 percent.  One policy solution to help encourage the adoption of new cleaner trucks now is to temporarily suspend the federal excise tax on truck purchases.  Given the average $150,000, price for a new Class 8 tractor, the 12 percent federal excise tax inflates the delivered price of a new truck and is a leading contributor to an aging and less efficient truck fleet. A tax holiday on truck sales through 2021 is a powerful option to encourage truck owner to replace less efficient models with new options to help deliver immediate term clean air and climate benefits.  According to a recent survey, 60 percent of trucking fleets indicated they would consider buying more new trucks if the excise tax was suspended.

“A major challenge for electricity, fuel cells and other technologies making inroads in the commercial market is the higher cost and availability of both charging infrastructure and vehicles.  One option without these concerns is expanding the use of renewable diesel fuel and blends of high-quality biodiesel fuels in both new and existing vehicles.  Advanced biofuels capable of achieving 50 to 85 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions are growing in availability across the country.  In California, the use of these fuels has achieved the most greenhouse gas emissions reductions from transportation sources in the State, including beating GHG reductions from electrification of cars, trucks and buses by a factor of almost four to one. 

“Beginning in 2011, all new heavy-duty trucks have been equipped with selective catalytic reduction (SCR) and particulate control technologies.  These combine to achieve stringent new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and CARB emissions requirements for NOx emissions of no more than 0.20 grams per brake horsepower hour (g/BHP-hr).  This is in addition to PM emissions levels of no more than 0.01 g/BHP-hr.

“More improvements in diesel technology are coming.  Manufacturers are working with regulators at CARB and EPA on a Cleaner Trucks Initiative and rulemaking that will be finalized in the coming months and will establish even further reductions in nitrogen oxide emissions making future diesel truck engines even nearer-to-zero emissions and contributing to achieve clean air goals. 

“Even as these 15 states and the District of Columbia work to accelerate zero emissions vehicles toward 2050, diesel technology in commercial vehicles will continue to play an important role in the regional and nation’s economy for decades to come.” 

Members of the Diesel Technology Forum are the leaders in advanced technology engines, vehicles, fuels, and equipment, both diesel and a range of alternative fuels, including electrification, hydrogen, natural gas and others.