EPA plans to propose new truck emissions rule by 2020, aims for lower NOx and uniform regs

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Updated Nov 15, 2018

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday afternoon announced plans to explore overhauling emissions regulations for heavy-duty trucks and engines, aiming for greater simplicity of emissions regulations and national uniformity of such regs, said EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler.

Specifics about the program, dubbed the Cleaner Trucks Initiative, were sparse, but EPA says it intends to pursue a rulemaking to update regulations surrounding emissions of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide (NOx). The rule, which EPA says it hopes to propose by 2020, will call for further reduction of NOx emissions, EPA said.

Establishing national uniformity is meant resolve the issue of outlier states like California, who’ve instituted much more stringent emissions regulations of heavy-duty trucks (with its in-use diesel regs) than EPA has.

Wheeler announced the Cleaner Trucks Initiative in a brief ceremony on Tuesday at EPA headquarters in Washington, D.C., saying EPA intends to “take a comprehensive review of existing requirements to root out inefficiencies,” while still “[ensuring] heavy-duty trucks are clean and remain a competitive way to transport goods.”

Though its goal is to further reduce tailpipe emissions, EPA intends to take a different approach than it has in the past, said Wheeler. “For the past two decades, requirements [have] been added in piecemeal fashion, resulting in overly complex requirements that do little to actually improve the environment.”

Wheeler said the goal is to deploy technologies already developed, though not yet in use. “Through the Cleaner Trucks Initiative, we can provide the trucking industry with regulatory certainty so they can do what they do best — innovate, create and deliver,” he said.

Flanking Wheeler at the announcement were representatives from the American Trucking Associations, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and the Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association — groups that all spoke in support of the Cleaner Trucks program.

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Creating national standards was a key focus for industry groups who spoke in favor of the program.

“EPA’s proposed Cleaner Trucks Initiative provides the opportunity to move from a prescriptive-based compliance program to one that is performance-based,” said Jed Mandel, president of the Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association (EMA). “By doing so, we can achieve deeper real-world NOx reductions, implement modern in-use compliance protocols and streamline current redundant regulations.”

EMA represents major truck and engine manufacturers, including Cummins, Daimler, Navistar, Paccar and Volvo.

Lewie Pugh, executive vice president of OOIDA, at the ceremony thanked EPA for “inviting OOIDA to participate” in the process of overhauling emissions regulations. “Clean air is a priority for everyone,” he said, but added that the “technology used in heavy-duty trucks to accomplish this [needs] to be affordable and reliable for small business truckers.”

Bill Sullivan, executive vice president of advocacy for ATA, said there’s a need to harmonize emissions regulations to create a federal standard.

“As an industry engaged in interstate commerce, ATA strongly favors a single national emission pathway as opposed to a patchwork of state standards,” he said.