Heavy-duty vehicles

Heavy-duty vehicles

As demand for freight transport grows, making the global fleet of on-road freight vehicles both cleaner and more fuel-efficient is an increasingly urgent task. Most heavy-duty vehicles are powered by diesel engines that, especially in older models, can emit high levels of particulates, nitrogen oxides, and other pollutants that cause both chronic disease and premature death, especially in urban areas and among the most vulnerable populations. And HDVs are responsible for an increasing proportion of total carbon emissions from the transportation sector, as light-duty vehicles become more fuel efficient thanks in part to the pressure from farsighted regulatory policy. Achieving a cleaner freight transport system will depend not only on a similarly farsighted approach to regulating vehicle emissions and efficiency, but also on developing an effective model for systemic change that includes measures to shift freight to the most sustainable modes and optimize supply chain activity.

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About the program

As demand for freight transport grows, making the global fleet of on-road freight vehicles both cleaner and more fuel-efficient is an increasingly urgent task. Most heavy-duty vehicles are powered by diesel engines that, especially in older models, can emit high levels of particulates, nitrogen oxides, and other pollutants that cause both chronic disease and premature death, especially in urban areas and among the most vulnerable populations. And HDVs are responsible for an increasing proportion of total carbon emissions from the transportation sector, as light-duty vehicles become more fuel efficient thanks in part to the pressure from farsighted regulatory policy. Achieving a cleaner freight transport system will depend not only on a similarly farsighted approach to regulating vehicle emissions and efficiency, but also on developing an effective model for systemic change that includes measures to shift freight to the most sustainable modes and optimize supply chain activity.

Policymakers can draw on a growing portfolio of measures to reduce climate impacts and local air pollution from on-road freight. These include voluntary measures, such as green freight programs or fuel-efficiency labeling, and mandates such as vehicle efficiency standards or exhaust pollutant limits. ICCT’s heavy-duty vehicles program conducts research to identify and promote cost-effective, technologically ambitious efforts across that portfolio of policy options, and contributes practical expertise to governments and other stakeholders engaged in designing, operating, and evaluating programs to advance the development of a cleaner freight transportation sector.

The chart shows the incremental cost versus fuel consumption reduction potential for long-haul tractor-trailers, relative to the average European 2015 truck. Heavy-duty vehicles produce about a quarter of all carbon dioxide emissions from road transport in the European Union, and some 5% of the EU’s total greenhouse gas emissions. And their share is growing, as emissions from cars and vans decline in response to increasingly stringent CO2 standards for those vehicles. (See Heavy-duty vehicles technology potential and cost study)

Recent publications

Transitioning to zero-emission heavy-duty freight vehicles

Assesses zero-emission heavy-duty vehicle technologies to support decarbonization of the freight sector in the 2025–2030 timeframe. Synthesizes data from the research literature, demonstrations, and low-volume commercial trucks regarding their potential to deliver freight with zero tailpipe emissions. Analyzes the emerging technologies by their cost of ownership and life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions for China, Europe, and the United States.

2017.09.26 | White paper
Remote-sensing regulation for measuring exhaust pollutants from in-use diesel vehicles in China

Summarizes provisions of the first national-level remote sensing regulation adopted by China for diesel vehicles.

2017.09.19 | Policy update
Mexico freight assessment

Provides information on market dynamics, opportunities and barriers for truck fuel-saving technologies and operational measures, and the potential benefits of building a more robust and extensive Transporte Limpio program, and harmonizing it with the SmartWay program in the U.S.

2017.09.12 | Consultant report
See all publications

Staff blog

Time to party like it's ... 2008?

The International Chamber of Shipping says that because our recent study shows that shipping emissions remain below their 2008 peak, not to worry. That's an overly rosy view of the data.

Staff