Clean Trucks Plan: How Reducing Emissions Impacts the Nation’s Commercial Vehicles

Amanda Scott

Associate Editor

Loyola University Chicago School of Law, JD 2024

The EPA is expected to introduce tougher heavy duty emissions rules in 2023 as part of the Clean Trucks Plan with the intent to inhibit a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. The quicker these changes in the greenhouse gas rules are made, the better for the environment and the future of the efficiency of transportation. The application of these regulations will lead to more efficient transmissions across the country as it impacts a large variety of important vehicles.

The Clean Trucks Plan was put in place through the final rule signed on December 20, 2022. This was initially introduced on March 28, 2022. It is set to go in place in the model year 2027. The overarching goal of this plan is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions along with other harmful air pollutants from heavy-duty trucks. This specifically focuses on reducing emissions that stem from smog and soot as it relates to heavy-duty engines and vehicles. A heavy-duty vehicle is defined as any motor vehicle that is in excess of 26,001 pounds, as categorized by the U.S. Department of Transportation. This category is inclusive of city transit buses, cement mixers, tractors, and other equipment typically utilized for long-haul transportation.


Stricter standards were proposed for over half of the thirty-three sub-categories of vocational and tractor vehicles. The scope of vocational vehicles is immense as it includes durable work trucks built to handle a specific job or task. Examples of vocational vehicles include firetrucks, concrete mixers, and garbage trucks. Among the heavy duty vehicles selected by the Clean Trucks Plan were school buses, transit buses, commercial delivery trucks, and short-haul tractors. This means that across the board, a great number of people will be impacted and with the requirement to comply with the regulations. An even greater number of people will benefit from being exposed to better quality air, arguably making it worthwhile.

Compliance with these rules and regulations is not expected to be an easy feat for large corporations. Jed Mandel, president of the Truck & Engine Manufacturers Association stated, “getting all these rules and regulations working in concert is extremely important and very challenging.” He represents companies such as Daimler Trucks, Caterpillar, and Cummins, all of which would be greatly impacted by a shift in regulations. Mandel notes how important it is for these companies to be in compliance with the Clean Trucks Plan regulations. This importance stems from the lasting benefits that these regulations will have on the environment.

The impact on commercial vehicle-related corporations will ultimately provide a great benefit to the environment. This impact on the corporations has been demonstrated by Daimler Truck North America’s VP of Product Compliance and Regulatory Affairs when he spoke out on the topic. He stated, “We’ve spent a large number of years preparing for the technical hurdles of 2027 GHG standards, and EPA’s proposals put that development at risk.” He also noted his frustration with the changes in the federal GHG rules from administration to administration.

However, these changes are with the intent of benefiting the environment. It is well known that transportation in general is the single largest contributor to U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. It constitutes 29% of emissions, with heavy-duty vehicles taking the place as the second-largest contributor. Heavy-duty vehicles alone contribute 24% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. These new stringent standards when fully phased are predicted to result in up to 24% to 25% lower carbon dioxide emissions. While this number can always be improved, lowering carbon emissions would have a significant impact on the environment concerning the rate at which greenhouse gases are emitted, especially those coming from the transportation field. This benefit is also linked to improvement  in respiratory and cardiovascular problems along with other adverse health problems that have long lasting effects.

Looking forward

The EPA began reconsidering these greenhouse gas rules after the Inflation Reduction Act was passed in August 2022. This Act generally focuses on new and reinstated tax laws. These laws will affect both business and individuals. Importantly, the Act created a commercial vehicle credit with a maximum of $40,000. This could allow the U.S. to make a swift shift to electric heavy-duty vehicles because of the financial incentive.

Additionally, there are still standing plans to finalize various other emission-reducing rules. This is inclusive of the reduction of emissions of smog- and soot-forming nitrogen oxides that are a product of heavy-duty gasoline and diesel engines. This would further enhance the environmental efficiency of the transportation division, especially as it relates to heavy-duty trucks.

Looking far into the future, the EPA  has stated they would issue an additional notice of proposed rulemaking for model years 2027 through 2029. This proposed rulemaking model is to further enhance more stringent greenhouse gas standards. Specifically, there are two other actions related to the Clean Trucks Plan being developed by the EPA. The first is “Strengthening American Leadership in Clean Cars and Trucks.” This is set to focus on light- and medium-duty vehicles. This will also address multi-pollutant emissions, noting greenhouse gas emissions. Further, a second action will center around greenhouse gas emissions for heavy-duty vehicles for the model year 2027. These two actions are predicted to take into consideration the Inflation Act of 2022, which is designed to lead to zero-emission vehicle technologies. With legislation on the horizon, the EPA will continue to consider these guideposts while drafting heavy-duty emissions policies.

I firmly believe the initiatives that have been taken and will be taken will benefit the environment in substantial ways. I think it is important to address the wide range of improvements that can be made in the transportation sector to further benefit the environment. Many practices are outdated and with steps like the Clean Trucks Plan, more modern-day knowledge about the effects of their practices can be considered.