EPA Releases Final Heavy Duty Truck Tailpipe Emissions Rule

On March 29th the EPA issued new tailpipe emissions requirements for heavy-duty trucks through 2032 which is a defacto electrification mandate. This comes one week after rolling out the country’s strongest-ever federal tailpipe standards for the cars most Americans drive (read more here). The heavy-duty truck rule covers tailpipe emissions from vehicles including delivery vans, garbage trucks, and school buses up to long-haul 18-wheelers.

However, the trucking industry isn’t expected to move toward electrification designs given that it will be a heavy lift due to up-front costs. Chris Spear, president and CEO of the American Trucking Associations, said in a statement that he “opposes this rule in its current form because the post-2030 targets remain entirely unachievable given the current state of zero-emission technology, the lack of charging infrastructure and restrictions on the power grid.” Todd Spencer, president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, slammed EPA for being “dead set on regulating every local mom and pop business out of existence with its flurry of unworkable environmental mandates.”

The final version gives more time for manufacturers in the earlier model years starting with 2027 to develop technologies and deploy infrastructure mirroring California’s Advanced Clean Truck rule which EPA approved a year ago. “EPA’s new heavy-duty emissions rule is challenging, but Ford is working aggressively to meet the moment,” Cynthia Williams, Ford’s global director of sustainability, homologation and compliance, said in a statement. Ford is part of the Heavy-duty Leadership Group, a coalition backing the rule that also includes engine maker Cummins and parts suppliers BorgWarner and Eaton.

The recent EPA vehicle rules make the Congressional Review Act increasingly relevant, because should Republicans add the Senate and the White House to entities under their control, they’d be able to overturn any number of Biden Administration regulations, but only those finalized within 60 legislative days of such CRA action. This means that the Biden Administration will want to move quickly to ensure its regulations cannot be repealed, so we may see a flurry of regulation in the coming weeks because, while the 60-day strike date is unclear, one thing isn’t—the sooner the better for the Biden Administration. Worth noting, however, is that this is only relevant if Republicans have the House, Senate, and White House. If any remain under Democratic control, it will be near impossible for the next Administration to win these legislative battles. Still, the CRA isn’t the only major battle coming, because regardless of who wins the election, Congress is poised for a major tax fight as many of the breaks implemented by the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) expire, which may be ok with Democrats while Republicans may try to use the tax bill to revoke tax provisions incorporated under the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).