Semi Truck Emissions Regulations: What Fleet Owners Need to Know

Class 8 trucks are responsible for about a quarter of the greenhouse gas emissions generated by the U.S. transportation sector. That amounts to over 400 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2 ) emitted each year.

Diesel engines contribute to pollution by creating particulate matter, a mix of fine particles and liquid droplets that can become lodged in the lungs and irritate eyes and skin.

U.S. fleet owners and trucking companies face increasing pressure from both national and state agencies to reduce their trucking emissions footprint and keep up with changing environmental standards. Earlier this year, the Biden administration proposed stronger emissions regulations for heavy-duty vehicles, with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposing that the industry cut up to 90% of NOx emissions per truck by 2031. 

Transitioning to electronic vehicles (EVs) could help combat pollution and comply with government regulations, but that’s simply not financially possible for many fleets. 

In this post, we’ll review some of the main semi-truck emissions regulations and how they’ve evolved. We’ll also look at a solution fleet owners can implement to meet these standards without transitioning the entire fleet to EV.

The Evolution of Semi Truck Emissions Standards

U.S. emission standards for heavy-duty compression ignition (CI) engines have evolved over the past 50 years. The EPA develops these regulations, with California’s Air Resources Board (CARB) setting additional standards for that state.

Here’s a brief timeline of how emissions standards have played out for heavy-duty vehicles since 1970:

1970: Congress passes The Clean Air Act, which mandates a 90% reduction in automobile emissions by 1975. That same year, President Nixon established the EPA, the agency responsible for regulating motor vehicle pollution. Per the EPA’s website:  

“New cars must meet EPA emission standards for hydrocarbons (HC), carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen oxide (NOx). The law also directs EPA to set health-based ‘National Ambient Air Quality Standards’ for six pollutants.”

1971: The EPA officially starts testing the fuel economy of all vehicles as a precursor to informing consumers about vehicle gas mileage.

1974: The EPA begins limiting heavy-duty engine emissions of particulate matter (PM), CO2, hydrocarbons (HC), and NOx. 

1985: The EPA sets strict standards for NOx emissions from heavy-duty engines and for PM from heavy-duty diesel-powered trucks and buses. 

1990: To help trucks and buses meet 1985 emissions standards which would soon become active, the EPA sets limits on diesel fuel sulfur content. Congress amends The Clean Air Act, requiring additional reductions in emissions of HC, CO, NOx, and PM.

1997: The EPA finalizes emission standards for HC, CO, NOx, and PM.

2000: The EPA launches a national program to regulate heavy-duty vehicles and their fuel as a “single system.” 

2005: The EPA finalizes durability procedures that help manufacturers predict emission levels for certain types of new trucks and vehicles at the end of their useful lifespan.

2011: The EPA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) introduce regulations for improving the fuel efficiency of heavy-duty trucks and buses and reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.

2015: The EPA and NHTSA propose greenhouse gas and fuel economy standards for model years 2018-2027 medium- and heavy-duty trucks.

Dieselnet breaks down EPA and California emission standards for heavy-duty CI engines from 1974 through 2027, as follows:

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EPA Proposes Tougher Emissions Rules 

As anyone in the trucking industry knows, heavy-duty trucking will likely rely on internal combustion for at least the next decade. To further curb emissions and make existing trucks cleaner, the EPA has proposed tougher emission rules for existing heavy-duty vehicles and engines. 

These rules, which would come into effect starting in 2027, aim to cut NOx emissions up to 60% by 2045. Another proposed EPA rule impacts greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions standards for heavy-duty vehicles starting in 2027. 

The rules are part of the EPA’s Clean Trucks Act (CTA). Introduced in 2021, the rules set new standards for criteria pollutants in the trucking sector and update GHG emissions standards for heavy-duty vehicles starting with model year 2030.

California’s regulations are even stricter, requiring new trucks, including big rigs, to achieve zero emissions by 2040. This regulation, proposed by CARB in August 2022, requires large trucking companies to convert existing fleets to zero-emission vehicles and achieve zero emissions by 2042. CARB’s Advanced Clean Truck (ACT) also requires truck manufacturers to sell 30% of their stock as EVs starting in 2024.  

These proposals mean that owners of big-rig trucks must become more aware of how their fleet contributes to pollution and what steps they can take to reduce emissions.

Cost a Major Concern for Fleet Owners

Fleet owners, truck industry groups, and owner-operators are understandably concerned about the potential costs of new and upcoming regulations. The implementation of stricter emission standards could cost manufacturers between $19 and $31 billion by 2045, though the EPA estimates net benefits of over $200 billion.

In March 2022, American Trucking Associations President and CEO Chris Spear voiced the industry’s support for reducing air pollution by curbing GHG and NOx emissions as long as the regulations wouldn’t hurt “the reliability  of the trucks and trailers purchased or impose unreasonable or unworkable costs on the industry.” 

In response to concerns about high costs to fleet owners and owner-operators, the Biden Administration had already begun rolling out government subsidies via The Supporting Trucking Efficiency and Emission Reductions (STEER) Act

What is The STEER Act?

The STEER Act, formally introduced by U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis in July 2021, is a voucher program that helps cover the cost of retrofitting heavy-duty trucks with technology that reduces emissions. 

The STEER Act Coalition was formed in 2022 to further the bill’s passage. Currently, the coalition, of which TruckLabs is a member, is reaching out to legislators. Our aim is to get the STEER Act passed as a standalone bill or as part of President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act — a bill that, among other measures, allocates funds to help reduce carbon emissions by 40% by 2030.

If passed, The STEER Act’s total budget would be $500 million, spread over five years. 

Under The STEER Act, the per-unit voucher size decreases incrementally based on the size of the fleet, as follows:

  • 10 trucks or fewer: $4,000 or 75% of total cost per unit
  • 50 trucks or fewer: $3,500 or 72.5% of total cost per unit
  • 100 trucks or fewer: $3,000 or 70% of total cost per unit
  • >100 trucks: $2,500 or 67.5% of total cost per unit

In its overview of the STEER Act, the EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality writes:

“This legislation aims to accelerate market penetration of active emission-reducing technologies like TruckWings for Class 8 trucks by creating a program to significantly reduce the up-front cost of purchasing and installing these technologies.”

Rather than the government picking winners on the fuel source, let’s make trucks more efficient and help reduce emissions on diesel trucks today, while at the same time enabling an electric future.”

Daniel Burrows

How Truck Wings Can Help Semi Trucks Meet Emission Standards

Class 8 truck emissions regulations are quickly becoming the new normal, and fleet owners must comply with them. 

To help fleets meet those standards, TruckLabs offers TruckWings, a retrofit aerodynamic device for Class 8 trucks. At speeds above 52 mph, the device closes the gap between the cab and trailer automatically, reducing drag, increasing fuel efficiency, and improving stability.

Here are three ways TruckLabs is helping fleets reduce emissions: 

  • TruckWings produces between 3 and 6% fuel savings or electric truck range expansion, translating into thousands of dollars saved per truck per year. 
  • Each TruckWings device reduces carbon emissions by 20,000 lbs per year. 
  • Five of the 10 largest North American fleets have collectively logged 500 million miles with TruckWings.

Learn more about how fleets are saving money and reducing emissions with TruckWings.

5 Practical Ways to Reduce Fleet Emissions

In the face of new regulations, pressure is mounting to reduce fleet emissions.

Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) reporting requirements have placed a renewed focus on emission management strategies for fleet owners looking for ways to lessen their vehicles’ impact on the environment. While transitioning to electric vehicles (EV) may be a desirable long-term goal, it’s not always practical or realistic for fleets operating in the current market.

However, fleet owners can take steps to reduce emissions on Class 8 vehicles, improve Scope 3 carbon emissions for its customers, and build a competitive advantage.

Fleet Emissions and the STEER Act

New legislation has emerged to help equip fleets with technology that will help reduce emissions.

The Supporting Trucking Efficiency and Emission Reductions (STEER) Act, introduced in the U.S. House in July 2021, is designed to reduce emissions by incentivizing truck companies to buy and install fuel-efficient technologies on Class 8 trucks.

Under the STEER Act, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) would provide $500 million over five years for vouchers to cover the expense. A draft of the legislation states that the voucher amounts for each technology included in the bill will cover the lesser of:

  • $4,000 or 75% of costs per unit for fleets operating 10 trucks or fewer.
  • $3,500 or 72.5% of costs per unit for fleets operating 50 trucks or fewer.
  • $3,000 or 70% of costs per unit for fleets operating 100 trucks or fewer.
  • $2,500 or 67.5% of costs per unit for fleets operating more than 100 trucks.

5 Ways to Reduce Fleet Emissions

Going electric is one way to reduce emissions.

But the truth is that transitioning to EVs is not realistic for most fleets in the near term.

Adding EVs to a fleet requires a substantial investment. Electric Class 8s cost $400,000 to $600,000, compared to about $150,000 for conventional diesel trucks.

About $220,000 of that expense is for the electric powertrain alone. Another added expense is the need for electric vehicle infrastructure, such as charging stations, which cost about $20,000 each.

There are also concerns that if drivers have to stop every 150 to 250 miles to charge their trucks, driver shortages will increase. This is why it’s important to consider using technologies that improve fuel efficiency and lower emissions in existing vehicles.

Fortunately, there are five other ways to reduce emissions that are more practical and realistic for most fleets in the short term.

  1. Improve Truck Aerodynamics

Improving aerodynamics is one of the most effective ways to reduce fuel consumption and emissions both today and into the future with EVs.

Aerodynamic drag accounts for over half of a truck’s fuel consumption at highway speeds. The good news is that using multiple aerodynamic devices to reduce drag can save the trucking industry about $10 billion in diesel fuel expenses.

These devices include:

  • Roof fairings to minimize the turbulence created by the cab.
  • Wheel covers that allow air to flow past the tires.
  • Active aerodynamics devices that automatically adjust to the changing aerodynamic needs.

One example of an active aerodynamic device for Class 8 tractors is TruckWings, a device that automatically closes the gap between the cab and trailer. TruckWings automatically deploy when speed exceeds 52 mph and retracts when speed is below 50 mph.

This means drivers don’t need to take their eyes off the road or their hands off the wheel.

Here are some of TruckWings’ proven benefits:

  • Improves driver experience: Fully-automated TruckWings improve stability, especially in crosswinds, and don’t require driver interaction.
  • Helps fleet owners meet ESG goals: Each TruckWing reduces 20,000 lbs/yr in carbon emissions.
  • Offers durability with minimal maintenance: Aerospace-grade aluminum has proven durability of almost half a billion miles driven and outperforms side extenders.
  • Provides real-time data: A cloud-connected telematics device features customer dashboards for 100% transparency.
  • Reduces fuel costs: TruckWings has shown proven savings of 3-6% mpg, resulting in millions of dollars saved per fleet.

Ryder System, Inc. and TruckLabs worked together to test the fuel efficiency of TruckWings. Get the results here.

  1. Invest in Telematics

The technology of communicating, collecting, and storing information via telecommunication devices is known as telematics.

In trucking, telematics monitors engine diagnostics and the hours a vehicle runs. This helps fleet managers keep track of all vehicle updates and required maintenance.

  1. Optimize Trucking Routes

An efficient routing plan can help reduce fuel consumption, emissions, and costs.

GPS technology has advanced, allowing for quicker travel and fewer stops, resulting in a 30% reduction in carbon emissions during each trip.

  1. Monitor and Improve Driver Habits

The most common cause of fuel waste is driver behavior.

Teaching and encouraging proper driving habits can result in a significant reduction in fuel consumption. Aggressive drivers who accelerate and brake rapidly use up to 30% more fuel.

Additionally, a tractor-trailer uses 20% less energy to move at 55 mph than 62 mph. And an idling diesel vehicle uses half a gallon of fuel an hour.

Cutting idling can save up to 5% of fuel costs, amounting to thousands of dollars in savings per year.

  1. Upgrade to Newer Vehicles

Older vehicles are less fuel-efficient than newer models, so upgrading your fleet can reduce emissions and fuel consumption.

A recent report from Fleet Advantage shows upgrading to a 2021 model from a 2016 model would reduce CO2 by 21 metric tons, resulting in $16,856 in savings per truck.

Reduce Your Fleet Emissions

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to reducing fleet emissions, but these five steps are a good place to start.

You can make a significant impact on your fleet’s carbon footprint by making even small modifications. And as electric vehicles become more prevalent, now is the time to start planning for the future.

Scope 3 Emissions: What You Need to Know in 2022

emissions

Companies are under increased pressure to monitor, control, and reduce their carbon emissions — and that pressure is set to continue. There are a number of ways to make key changes, from simple fuel emissions reductions to identifying problematic hot spots across operations. Tackling Scope 3 emissions opens an additional opportunity to uncover ways to lower overall environmental impact and adopt climate-friendly operations and policies.


What are Scope 3 Emissions?

Most global and public companies report and account for their carbon emissions, especially those generated from direct operations. But more and more operations leaders are honing in on Scope 3 emissions as a new area of demand and opportunity as regulatory pressures mount. In fact, many companies who gain a foothold in monitoring, managing, and reporting Scope 3 emissions are finding themselves at a competitive advantage.

Scope 3 emissions cover a broad range of activities and areas, including supplier activity and employee transportation, that a company can impact indirectly. Scope 3 emissions can be produced by purchased goods and services, capital goods, waste generated in operations, and even leased assets.

From favoring sustainable suppliers to curbing business travel, managing Scope 3 emissions provides an additional way to gain ground on a company’s overall sustainability goals.

U.S. companies are mandated to step up their efforts to reduce carbon footprints according to the Paris Agreement, which 189 countries signed onto. The agreement stipulates that countries and leaders worldwide must work to reduce emissions by approximately 45% by 2030 from 2010 levels.

Tracking Scope 3 emissions can offer a way to reduce overall emissions more proactively and thoroughly as more companies build emissions reductions into their net-zero and business strategies.

Scope 1, 2, and 3 Emissions: What’s the Difference?

Source: https://pba.umich.edu/scopes-of-carbon-emissions-explained/

Global Green House Gas (GHG) protocols break emissions into three “scopes” or classifications.

Scope 1 emissions
Scope 1 emissions are direct emissions generated from owned or controlled sources, including fleet fuel use and so-called fugitive emissions, or leaks and irregular releases from storage tanks, appliances, wells, or other pieces of equipment, for example.

Scope 2 emissions
Scope 2 emissions are indirect emissions from the generation of purchased energy, including from cooling systems, electricity, heating, and steam.

Scope 3 emissions
Scope 3 emissions are the result of activities from assets not owned or controlled by the reporting organization, but that the organization indirectly impacts. These include both upstream and downstream emissions that are linked to the company’s operations. Scope 3 emissions fall into 15 categories, though not all may be relevant. These emissions could include those produced by business travel, employee commuting, waste disposal, or the emissions generated by purchased goods and services or transportation and distribution.

The Challenge with Scope 3 Emissions

While chasing down Scope 3 emissions and cutting them back presents an entire frontier of emissions-reducing tactics, companies are finding major challenges with locating the sources and determining how to reduce them.

That’s because Scope 3 emissions often are outside of a company’s direct management or ownership and are hard to assess. Adding to the mix of challenges, these emissions types might also be occurring across several different companies, sometimes making it hard to determine who is responsible for making cuts.

Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions are easier to track, measure and control. Meanwhile, down the supply chain, tracking and coordinating the reduction of emissions from privately-owned businesses, including original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), may present challenges.

But businesses are undoubtedly running out of time to reduce carbon footprints as consumer purchasing behavior shifts in favor of sustainable practices, more suppliers embrace lowering emissions amid global policy trends, and stakeholders grow impatient for better, more complete reporting from all levels of operations.

Primary Scope 3 Emission Factors

Complications aside, Scope 3 emissions come from areas that are traceable and definable, including downstream and upstream sources.

Upstream
Upstream emissions sources include areas within the direct control of the company, and closer to systems and departments that can track, analyze data, and act. Upstream sources include:

  • Waste Generation: Waste sent to landfills and wastewater treatment facilities, for example.
  • Purchased Goods & Services: Extraction, production, and transportation of goods and services purchased or acquired by the company. Includes so-called “Cradle to Gate” emissions associated with the production of goods and services.
  • Transportation & Distribution: Emissions from transportation by land, sea, and air and related to third-party warehousing. The life cycle emissions are associated with manufacturing vehicles, facilities, or infrastructure, and can account for nearly a quarter of all Scope 3 emissions.
  • Fuel and Energy-Related Activities: Emissions of purchased fuels and emissions of purchased electricity are not included in Scope 1 or Scope 2. Generation of purchased electricity that is sold to end users
  • Capital Goods: Final products with an extended life, such as vehicles, buildings, and machinery, that are used by the company to manufacture a product

Downstream
Downstream emissions are sourced from areas where companies can insert their interests. Downstream categories include:

  • Use of Sold Products: End use of goods and services sold by the reporting company
  • Downstream Transportation and Distribution: Transportation and distribution of products sold between the reporting company’s operations and the end consumer
  • Investments: These can include equity investments, debt investments, project finance, managed investments, and client services
  • Franchises: Owners of franchises report the emissions created by their franchise operations and franchisees report emissions upstream
  • End-of-Life Treatment of Sold Products: Products sold to consumers that are “in use” are tracked for emissions related to product usage and disposal.

Why Measure Scope 3 Emissions?

Taking on Scope 3 emissions opens the door for businesses not only to improve their carbon impact but to attract investment and foster better innovation and collaboration with suppliers.

A business that goes after its indirect emissions achieves multiple benefits, including notching down risk within its own value chain, reassuring shareholders who are ratcheting up the pressure on companies in lockstep with mounting policy and consumer demand, and creating new opportunities with businesses, customers, and stakeholders.

As the importance of Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) gains momentum, there is growing awareness in the investment community that companies reporting and reducing all levels of carbon emissions can make for better investments. How a company tracks and mitigates its carbon emissions can have a significant impact on its profitability, risk and resilience and that has led to increased pressure to require companies to disclose more emissions information.

Aside from the appealing global impact of increased carbon reporting, consumers are increasingly demanding products and services with sound sustainability practices and standards. That means companies stand to improve bottom lines by pursuing scope emissions reductions andScope 3 emissions are the next bucket of opportunity.

Setting a focus around Scope 3 emissions also specifically ties companies more closely to their suppliers. Companies tracking Scope 3 also pay more attention to their customer’s behaviors and tracking emissions has the added benefit of uncovering additional operational cost-savings measures.

Benefits of Measuring and Reporting on Scope 3

Companies that measure and report on Scope 3 emissions tend to evaluate their overall business performance more effectively, focus on generating value from their emissions strategies, and create demonstrable impact from their emissions reductions.

Pursuing Scope 3 emissions can help companies not only further reduce their emissions but improve overall operations and performance. Added values from tracking Scope 3 can include:

  • Exposing emissions “hotspots” within a supply chain
  • Improved transparency, customer trust, brand, and reputational enhancement
  • Locating supplies that are leading in sustainability performance
  • Finding cost reduction opportunities
  • Helping suppliers bring sustainability initiatives up to new standards
  • Improving the overall sustainability rating of their products and services
  • Positive engagement with employees and consumers

Each of those benefits not only lowers a company’s overall carbon output but presents additional ways for a company to power up overall performance and improve its financial position.

6 Steps to Reduce Scope 3 Emissions

Taking steps to cut back on Scope 3 emissions can range from simple to complex. Here are some steps to get started.

  1. Determine which Scope 3 categories are relevant by taking a look at GHG protocols
  2. Collect source data from suppliers and partners for emissions related to products and services you’ve purchased
  3. Audit the supply chain to find where the greatest levels of indirect emissions may be occurring and determine if these areas can be improved
  4. Establish a single source of truth, finding a technology solution that streamlines data
  5. Take a closer look at suppliers and uncover which are focused on their own scope 3 emissions already. Find out if they are open to collaborating.
  6. Create an easy, employee-friendly approach to reducing emissions stemming from business travel and commuting.

Finding Pathways and Partners

Finding ways to reduce carbon emissions has fast become a key component of business strategy and sustainability practice among global and public companies. Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions categories provide a roadmap for specific tactics, developments, and activities companies can engage in to significantly lower their carbon impact.

Companies can create measurable impacts from relatively simple adjustments, such as lowering fuel emissions from their fleet or asking logistics partners to track and reduce their emissions. Products like TruckWings can be used to retrofit an entire trucking fleet or applied to new builds, delivering instant results. TruckWings is a tractor-mounted aerodynamic device that automatically closes the gap between cab and trailer, reducing drag, improving stability and increasing fuel efficiency, lowering emissions, and delivering 4-6% fuel savings.

Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Put Money in Your Company’s Pockets

There are two ways to run a more efficient trucking business, and they go hand in hand. Using less fuel saves you money and reducing CO2 emissions saves our planet.

Savings and sustainability are inseparable when it comes to aerodynamic device TruckWings. Built to automatically close the gap between cab and trailer when a truck travels at highway speed, TruckWings’ cuts your fuel bill while making our world a healthier place to live.

Bottom line benefits
Fuel accounts for 12% of vehicle-based costs, or $0.36 per mile, according to a 2021 study by the National Private Truck Council (NPTC). The opportunity to cut that cost by reducing drag as much as 7% is real: Six of the 10 largest fleets in North America are doing it now with TruckWings.

These leading companies are realizing a short 15- to 18-month ROI by equipping their trucks with a smart device that deploys and retracts with no driver intervention required. Making the decision to install TruckWings delivers measurable financial impact, and it’s one drivers support.

Cleaner air to breathe
One-third of the U.S.’s greenhouse gas emissions come from the transportation sector. Those who’ve chosen TruckWings are taking an active role in reducing levels of harmful CO2 in the atmosphere. They’re proud to be among visionaries doing what it takes to help the environmental cause. TruckWings on their tractor-trailers make a statement that reflects positively on their companies and their people.

Each time TruckWings automatically deploy, they signal the commitment made by the organization that owns and manages the truck to accomplish two key objectives: To cut fuel consumption and meet carbon reduction goals.

They show everyone on the road that they’re serious about running an efficient business—and making a difference for us all.