U.S. Truck Fleets Continue Turnover to Near-Zero Emission Internal Combustion Engines: Study

Gasoline, diesel, natural gas and propane continue to be the primary fuel and technology choices for U.S. commercial trucks, with the population of advanced technology near-zero emissions diesels increasing 4% over 2022.

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scharfsinn86 AdobeStock_420080513

Gasoline, diesel, natural gas and propane continue to be the primary fuel and technology choices for U.S. commercial trucks, with the population of advanced technology near-zero emissions diesels increasing 4% over 2022, according to the Engine Technology Forum (ETF).

“As more of the nation’s trucking fleet adopts the latest generation of advanced diesel and natural gas technology, communities are experiencing cleaner air and lower greenhouse gas emissions. And truckers save on their fuel expenses, too. Previous research showed the significant climate, fuel savings, and clean air impacts in the U.S. of the newer generation (2010 and later model year) of advanced diesel in Class 3-8 heavy-duty trucks. From 2010 through 2030, this generation of diesels will save approximately 1.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions, 130 billion gallons of fuel, yield a cumulative savings of 1 million tons of particulate matter and 18 million tons of nitrogen oxide emissions. These benefits will be even greater once new emission regulations are implemented for new vehicles starting in 2027,” says Allen Schaeffer, executive director of ETF.


Key takeaways:

  • ETF’s analysis of S&P Global Mobility TIPNet data of U.S. commercial vehicles in operation as of December 2023 found that 99.9%  of the nation’s commercial vehicles, from small white box delivery trucks on up to the largest 18 wheelers, are powered by internal combustion engines. Diesel makes up the largest share at 76%, followed by gasoline at 22%, then natural gas and propane.
  • Emerging zero-emissions technologies, including battery electric and fuel cell electric vehicles, presently make up a small fraction of the commercial vehicle fleet. Electric-powered commercial trucks (Class 3-8) account for over 20,000 units.
  • As of December 2023, 61% of all commercial diesel trucks on the road were 2010 and newer model year (2010 + MY) vehicles. That’s a 4% increase from 2022. They’re equipped with the latest emissions controls to help deliver near-zero emissions. California has the fastest growing population of advanced technology diesel vehicles in operation with a 13.3% increase compared to 2022.
  • In 2023, more than 2.8 billion gallons of renewable diesel and 1.9 billion gallons of biodiesel were consumed. Both are low carbon fuels. Renewable diesel fuel production capacity could reach 5.9 billion gal/y, by the end of 2025.
  • Vehicles fueled by electricity – battery electric or fuel cell – make up 0.1% of the commercial truck population. Of the nation’s largest trucks, Class 8, tractor-trailer size, 97% are powered by diesel. For all diesel trucks Class 3-8, 61% of these are equipped with the newest, most advanced, diesel technology that achieves near zero tailpipe emissions standards established by the U.S Environmental Protection Agency.
  • Continued improvements for internal combustion engines (ICE) in the form of even nearer-to-zero emissions and lower fuel consumption are on the horizon. Engine and vehicle manufacturers are working toward meeting the most recent emissions regulations for both light and heavy- duty vehicles. Advanced diesel trucks are expected to deliver the majority of clean air and greenhouse gas reduction benefits in the near term while zero emission vehicles are expected to play a greater role in the later years of Phase 3 rule implementation 2027-2032.
  • California leads all states in the adoption of EV technology in commercial trucks. For commercial trucks alone, California accounts for more than 25% of all EV commercial trucks in operation, followed by Pennsylvania, Washington, New York, and Massachusetts. With 82% of Class 8 diesel trucks in operation now being advanced generation (2010 +MY) technology, Indiana leads the nation for diesel trucks, followed by the District of Columbia (72.8%), Pennsylvania (72.5%), Illinois (68.9%) and Oklahoma (68,8%).

“While traditional petroleum-based fuels still dominate the vehicle sectors, the role of renewable fuels is growing. It’s especially important given the opportunity to deliver significant carbon and other emissions reductions across millions of internal combustion vehicles in operation,” says Schaeffer. “As the timing and degree of transition to alternative vehicles and fuels remains in flux, the importance of continued investment in new technology ICE vehicles is vital to ensure continued progress on clean air and climate commitments. Replacing older vehicles with new advanced ICE technology delivers substantial benefits. It would take more than 60 of the current generation diesels to equal the emissions of a single heavy-duty diesel truck built in the 1990s.”




“About two-thirds of all commercial trucks in operation are equipped with advanced emissions control equipment at this point, so we can see their contribution to substantial progress toward key state’s clean air and climate goals, and the opportunity to do more with accelerating fleet turnover. Communities realize almost immediate clean air benefits. Greenhouse gas emission reductions benefit everyone. And truck owners save some fuel money. It’s a win-win situation,” adds Schaeffer. “While battery electric and hydrogen options develop, along with their fueling networks, internal combustion engines are expected to dominate our goods movement and public transport sectors for decades to come. That’s why continued innovation, having the newest generation of these vehicles in place, and expanding our use of renewable fuels will ensure continued progress as well as lower burden of greenhouse gas emissions reduction in the future.”