Biden Clamps Down on Big Rigs to Fight Climate Change

Source: Flickr/Gage Skidmore

Trucks are essential to modern life, delivering everything from groceries to gadgets across the nation. But their diesel engines spew harmful emissions, making transportation the largest source of planet-warming greenhouse gasses in the U.S.

In an effort to tackle climate change and boost public health, the Biden administration just put the pedal to the metal on new rules to slash pollution from big rigs and other heavy-duty vehicles. While supporters cheer the move as a milestone in curbing emissions, opponents argue the costs may outweigh the benefits.

Biden Administration Finalizes New Emissions Rules for Trucks

The Biden administration recently announced stringent new emissions standards for heavy-duty vehicles like trucks and busses.

Source: FreightWaves/Jim Allen

Starting in 2026, the rules will require manufacturers to increase the number of zero-emissions vehicles sold each year through 2032.

Challenges and Uncertainties

While supporters tout the benefits, significant questions remain regarding technology, infrastructure, and costs. The trucking industry, which is dominated by small businesses, says the rules fail to account for economic realities.

Source: Wikimedia/Lisa M. Macias, U.S. Air Force

Critics argue the standards will eliminate consumer and business choices by pushing a rapid transition to zero-emissions technologies that may not yet be viable or affordable at scale. There are also concerns that an over-reliance on electric vehicles could strain power grids and increase electricity costs.

Stringent Standards Aim to Cut Over a Billion Tons of Emissions

The Biden administration is taking action against the climate crisis by imposing tough new standards on heavy-duty vehicles.

Source: Reuters

According to the White House, the rules aim to cut more than a billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions from trucks and busses over the life of the program. The trucking regulations are a key part of the Biden administration’s goal to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

Required Standards For Truck Manufacturers

The standards require manufacturers to produce more electric and fuel-cell vehicles each year through 2032.

Source: YouTube

By 2032, up to half of all new trucks and busses sold should be zero-emissions vehicles. The rules also tighten emissions limits for new gas- and diesel-powered heavy-duty vehicles.

Requiring More Zero-Emission Vehicles Through 2032

The Biden administration announced that it will mandate increased production of zero-emissions heavy-duty vehicles like electric trucks and busses over the next decade.

Source: Mercedes-benz

According to the new regulations, manufacturers will be required to make zero-emissions vehicles an increasing percentage of their annual production between 2027 and 2032. By 2032, zero-emissions vehicles should make up half of all new heavy-duty vehicles sold.

Supporters Say It Will Reduce Carbon Footprint, Address Climate Crisis

Supporters argue the new regulations on heavy-duty vehicles will help tackle the climate crisis by reducing emissions from the transportation sector, which accounts for about 29% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

Source: Topgear

The rules aim to cut over a billion tons of emissions and provide large health and economic benefits by requiring more zero-emissions vehicles to be produced each year through 2032.

EPA is In Full Support of Biden’s Move

“EPA’s standards complement President Biden’s unprecedented investment in our workers and communities to reduce harmful emissions while strengthening our manufacturing capacity for the transportation technologies of the future,” said White House Climate Advisor Ali Zaidi.

Source: Obama White House

“By tackling pollution from heavy-duty vehicles, we can unlock extraordinary public health, climate, and economic gains.”

Opposers Argue Cost Incurred as Well as Inflation

The trucking industry and oil producers criticized the regulations as unworkable and said they will likely challenge them in court.

Source: Marketplace

“Small business truckers, who happen to care about clean air for themselves and their kids as much as anyone, make up 96% of trucking,” said Todd Spencer, president of Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.

Trucking Industry and Oil Producers Criticize Regulations as Unworkable

The American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers and American Petroleum Institute said the regulations eliminate choices for businesses and consumers.

Source: AdobeStock/vvalentine

They said there are too many uncertainties about whether technology and infrastructure can meet the new standards. This could slow the movement of goods around the country and increase costs, the groups argued.

Republican Lawmakers Oppose The Regulations

Republican lawmakers also oppose the regulations, saying they will add costs during a period of high inflation. They argue that the rules are another example of the Biden administration trying to limit options for American and U.S. industries.

Source: Shutterstock/PopTika

Supporters counter that the health and economic benefits of cutting emissions and transitioning to zero-emissions vehicles outweigh any increased costs. They say the regulations will drive innovation in the trucking industry and reduce the impacts of climate change, like worsening wildfires, droughts and floods.

Opposition Highlight Emission Regulation Challenges

The criticism shows the challenges in reducing emissions from heavy-duty vehicles, which produce nearly a quarter of U.S. transportation emissions.

Source: Visual Capitalist

Transitioning the trucking industry away from diesel fuel will require major investments in new technology, infrastructure and workforce training. However, many argue that the scale of the climate crisis requires bold action and that the long-term benefits to society far outweigh any short-term costs or inconveniences.

Government Overreach

Some Republican lawmakers see the emissions standards as government overreach that limits choice. McMorris Rodgers said, “This is yet another example of the Biden administration’s whole-of-government effort to eliminate choices for American consumers, businesses and industries.”

Source: PGT Trucking

Critics argue that the mandates are unrealistic and that the administration should encourage voluntary efforts instead. While the debate continues, the regulations are now final and set to take effect starting in 2026, though legal challenges may still delay or alter the rules.

Rules Complement Investment in Clean Transportation Technologies

The new regulations work hand in hand with President Biden’s strategy to invest in developing and manufacturing zero-emission vehicles.

Source: Fleetowner

The regulations are the latest in a series of steps by the Biden administration to tackle climate change and reduce pollution from the transportation sector. In August 2021, the administration announced a target of 50% zero-emission vehicle sales by 2030.

Deep Cuts in Pollution From the Hardest Working Vehicles

The EPA finalized stringent new rules to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from heavy-duty trucks and busses starting in 2026.

Source: LinkedIn

The regulations aim to cut over a billion tons of emissions and provide large health and economic benefits by requiring more zero-emissions vehicles be produced each year through 2032.

How Will This Affect Trucking Companies and Truck Drivers?

The regulations will require truck makers to produce more electric and fuel cell trucks over time, with the goal of all new trucks being zero emissions by 2032.

Source: Grist

This transition may increase costs for trucking companies in the short term but lower fuel costs over the long run. The rules are not expected to directly impact most independent truck drivers or small trucking businesses, who typically buy used vehicles.

Will This Raise the Price of Goods?

Some costs may be passed onto consumers, though the overall economic benefits of the rules are expected to outweigh the costs.  

Source: AdobeStock/Cybrain

The EPA estimates that the health and environmental benefits will save between $120 and $280 billion while increasing the cost of a new long-haul truck by up to $40,000. Fuel cost savings from electric trucks may also help offset higher costs.

When Will The New Rules Go into Effect?

The new emissions standards will start in 2026 for heavy-duty vehicles like trucks and buses.

Source: Autoweek

Manufacturers will have to meet targets for low-emissions vehicles, with the requirements becoming more stringent over time. The rules aim for all new trucks to be zero emissions by 2032.

Will The Regulations Reduce Air Pollution and Improve Health?

Decreasing emissions from heavy-duty vehicles is expected to improve air quality and public health significantly. The new standards could avoid up to 2,200 premature deaths, 6,700 hospital admissions and emergency room visits, and $300 billion in health care costs through 2050, according to an analysis by the EPA.

Source: Autoevolution

This could provide major benefits, especially for disadvantaged communities located near major roadways. The controversial rules are likely to face legal challenges even as supporters push for swifter action.

Cost and Feasibility Are The Main Concerns

Some criticize the costs and feasibility, the Biden administration believes these stringent emissions rules for trucks and buses are crucial to fight climate change. Supporters say it’s a bold step towards cleaner transportation and improved public health that promotes innovation.

Source: NorthVolt

Opponents argue it will hurt small trucking companies and raise costs. Only time will tell, but it’s clear addressing emissions from one of the largest polluting sectors is a priority. Reducing carbon footprints requires tough choices, and the administration hopes this push helps spur new technologies to cut pollution and emissions.

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Sally Reed

Written by Sally Reed

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