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Will truck manufacturers stop polluting in 2024?

By East Peterson-Trujillo

Volvo, Daimler, and Volkswagen need to set new years resolutions to stop standing in the way of cleaner air for our communities.

Over the past few months, trucks loaded with packages in our neighborhoods weren’t just dropping off presents—they also delivered pollution. To combat this pollution, communities need a strong federal heavy-duty truck rule finalized now.

Heavy-duty trucks churn out pollution that creates “diesel death zones”. Physicians coined this label because residents living near ports, warehouses, and busy roads are exposed to such high quantities of pollutants that asthma rates and cancer risks are drastically elevated. 

Thankfully, states and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are poised to take action to curb this pollution. Several states have already adopted strong standards requiring manufacturers to produce zero-emission trucks and buses while cleaning up fossil fuel vehicles still on the road. The EPA is working to finalize clean truck standards by March to regulate smog- and soot-forming emissions.

Volvo, Daimler, Volkswagen and other truck manufacturers are fighting the EPA’s proposed rules—despite their own commitments to cleaner vehicles and the fact that clean air standards will protect millions of people. Truckmakers are letting their industry trade group, the Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association (EMA), lobby to block these public health safeguards.

Truck manufacturers are putting profits and pollution over progress—and hiding behind their industry groups to do it. Big rig manufacturers appear to be on board with clean trucks. Volvo says that by 2030, it will try to make 50% of its heavy-duty truck sales electric. Daimler is boasting its investments in truck charging infrastructure and touting that its electric Freightliner fleet has driven a million miles. Navistar, owned by Volkswagen, is touting the ability of its electric school buses to slash greenhouse gasses. 

But their industry group the EMA is actively lobbying against rules that will save lives, prevent hospitalizations, and create billions of dollars in health benefits. In a multipronged effort, the EMA 

  • testified against the EPA strengthening clean air standards for trucks;
  • testified against California’s clean truck standards and filed a lawsuit to delay the standards’ implementation;
  • testified against the speedy adoption of California’s heavy-duty vehicle pollution rule;
  • launched the so-called ‘Clean Freight Coalition’ with other industry associations to further pressure EPA and expand their political influence; and  
  • ran a disinformation campaign called “CleanTruckFacts” that pushes to weaken clean trucks rules.

While EMA delays rules to stop deadly pollution, its members are touting sustainability. Scientists estimate that we lose more than 100,000 lives to the direct effects of air pollution each year. This dangerous public health threat disproportionately harms communities of color, which are exposed to 25% more fine particulate pollution (PM2.5) than white populations. In the U.S., almost ¾ of goods travel by truck, and in many communities, delivery via truck is the only option.

In 2024, Daimler, Volvo, and Volkswagen should resolve to stop polluting our communities. 

These companies must demand that the EMA stop fighting lifesaving rules and publicly support a transition to manufacturing 100% electric trucks by 2035.