semi truck driving

How New Emissions Standards Are Leading to Selfies with Trucks

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Just a few weeks ago, in late October, trucking and manufacturing representatives from across the United States convened in San Diego for the American Trucking Associations’ Management Conference and Exhibition to discuss the impact that new and pending emissions regulations will have on the trucking industry and its equipment market. The conference’s particular focus was on standards announced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency earlier this year, and on California’s Air and Resources Board’s (CARB) finalized Advanced Clean Trucks rule and proposed Advanced Clean Fleets rule. All aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

All the rules contain various measures that focus on ways of cutting down or eliminating emissions resulting from the use of trucks. The proposed EPA regulations (covered by ELM in January 2022: New Year, New Vehicle Emissions Standards), the strictest greenhouse gas emissions requirements in the history of the EPA, for instance, set as a goal an average fuel efficiency target of about 40 miles per gallon within the next few years. CARB’s finalized Advanced Clean Trucks rule is a sales requirement setting minimum percentages of a manufacturer’s fleet that must be electric, gradually moving up to 100%, and ensuring compliance by establishing reporting requirements. Even more imminent, and perhaps even more challenging, beginning in 2024, CARB’s proposed Advanced Clean Fleets rule would disallow trucking fleets from using any new non-zero-emissions vehicles in the transport of freight from Californian shipping ports to inland destinations. For longer trucking routes – like cross-country shipping – California will require the elimination of non-zero-emissions vehicles by 2045. Ultimately, the EPA and CARB rules all require a move towards building completely electric truck fleets and, of course, the accompanying charging infrastructure that can accommodate not just the snazzy electric passenger vehicles we have begun using in the US, but large electric-powered tractor trucks.

For industry players to realistically meet these objectives, changes to diesel engines and associated equipment will also be required. These changes involve both engine hardware components as well as associated software. Fuel-efficiency objectives will also require a change in the design of commercial vehicles within the next couple of years. For example, manufacturers will use tires that result in the use of less fuel and will shift increasingly toward the use of automated transmissions. Manufacturers of trucks with electric batteries, which are extremely heavy, will also have to resdesign trucks to account for the increased weight when deciding how to meet fuel-efficiency changes. Regardless of the methods trucking equipment manufacturers discussed to enhance the efficiency of diesel engines to ensure compliance with all the new regulations, the one constant theme throughout the trucking conference was to plan closely with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), who build the components of which trucks and their engines are assembled.

Although compliance with these zero-emissions requirements has already required – and will continue to require even more – intensive planning by the industry, which is particularly concerned about the significantly increased cost of manufacturing electric trucks, there are some more immediate bright spots. When discussing how power and torque are not an issue with electric trucks, as they are in non-electric models, one conference attendee said of the truckers who man these new electric trucks, “They absolutely love them. It is such a better environment for them… The ride is significantly quieter. It’s smoother. It’s less stressful.” The attendee went on, “We have drivers reporting back that every time they stop, someone wants to get a selfie with the truck, so they’re loving it.”