The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finalized on March 29 a rule further limiting heavy-duty truck emissions. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said the regulation's goal is to increase the share of electric vehicles in the U.S. truck fleet by 2032.

The rule, which applies only to manufacturers of new trucks, includes new greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions standards for eight different types of trucks including some used in construction and many used to haul materials and equipment. 

Manufacturers will need to bring their fleets into compliance by model year 2032. They will be required to phase in vehicles meeting the new rule beginning in 2027 for some of the eight truck categories. The final rule also revises 2027 GHG standards set previously under EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Fuel Efficiency Standards for Medium- and Heavy-Duty Engines and Vehicles Phase 2 rule.

"We are concerned about the potential impacts these new standards will have on a construction industry that is only now returning to something approximating a normal supply chain situation," says Brian Turmail, vice president of public affairs and strategic initiatives at the Associated General Contractors of America, in a statement. 

"Since most construction sites don’t have the luxury of being located next to large construction materials warehouses, firms are hyper dependent on just-in-time deliveries for most construction materials. Any measure that limits the ability for materials suppliers to deliver goods to a job site will likely result in longer construction schedules for many projects. These longer schedules will make it harder for the industry to operate more efficiently, potentially undermining the intended benefits of this rule," said AGC. 

The truck rules do not mandate a direct shift toward electric or any other kind of vehicles but rather they set average pollution limits for truckmakers’ fleets that are intended to push them toward low-emitting vehicles such as EVs, hybrid-electric, natural gas or hydrogen-powered vehicles. Many fleet delivery trucks already run on compressed natural gas or hydrogen. 

"Where gasoline vehicles were in the 1910s or 1920s is where we are now with EVs," said Buttigieg in an April 2 TV interview. He stressed that the truck rules and previous passenger car rules that encouraged adoption of EV technology were designed to keep American EV manufacturers ahead of Chinese competitors also investing in the sector. 

EPA says the new rule would prevent 1 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions by 2055. Buttigieg said that even if emissions from fossil-fuel-fired plants are created by rising EV adoption and charging needs, it would still be more efficient from an emissions standpoint than gasoline-powered vehicles because modern power plants are far more efficient in limiting their emissions with technologies such as scrubbers than the millions of vehicles on the road today each emitting internal combustion engine byproducts via their tailpipes. 

The Truck and Engine Manufacturers' Association, a trade group that represents manufacturers such as Daimler and Navistar International, said more time is needed for such a shift.

The group and its members "are committed to a zero-emission future for the U.S. trucking industry, designing and building the heavy-duty zero-emissions vehicles that can deliver that future,” said Jed R. Mandel, association president. "All parties need to be better aligned on the realistic timing for delivering the products and infrastructures critical to achieving the successful outcome we all want."

Tucked into the 1,155-page rule on emissions controls is a provision the association had pushed the administration for. Since pollution-control systems don’t work well in colder conditions, it is designed to relax some standards as temperatures drop. But that shift begins at 77°F, warmer than the average temperature across most of the continental U.S. in summer.

Industry Ahead of the Game on EV Adoption 

Contractors, meanwhile, have been preparing their equipment fleets for electrification since the last decade and many are adopting electric haul trucks, tractor trailers for low boys and other equipment that could fit into the eight categories in the rule. 

"We have been piloting the use of electrical equipment on our projects for the past few years," says Christopher McFadden, vice president of communications at Turner Construction Co. "We found several advantages: high vehicle efficiency, lower operating costs, and lower or zero emissions—along with increased health and safety benefits such as less noise, improved air quality, and less fatigue for operators."

Turner began an all-electric excavator pilot project with supplier Volvo Construction Equipment last year. They have also been using hybrid Caterpillar D6 XE bulldozers and Energy Storage Systems from Offgrid Ingenium.

Dave Loomis, general manager overseeing Alberici’s equipment, warehouse and maintenance said the contractor is already doing several things to reduce emissions and waste. 

"Regarding vehicle emissions, one area of focus is on Diesel Exhaust Fluid capabilities. All of our newer service trucks and delivery tractor trailers have [them] and we are phasing out older vehicles that do not," he said in a statement. The "combination of deionized water and urea essentially turns harmful emissions into water and nitrogen. Vehicles that have the capabilities can reduce emissions by up to 90%."

Other practices Loomis said the firm put into place include GPS monitoring to track idle time and reduce fleet vehicles burning fuel unnecessarily; Inspecting and performing proper preventative maintenance on all fleet vehicles to ensure they are running at optimal efficiency; planning and coordination of routing of delivery vehicles, in addition to combining loads and deliveries, to reduce the number of trucks on the road, number of miles driven and amount of fuel consumed.