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

Trailer CO2 Certification in the European Union

Analysis of the extension of the current CO2 certification procedure for heavy-duty vehicles, to also include trailers

2018.09.24 | Working paper
Market analysis of heavy-duty commercial trailers in Europe

Analysis of the market for new commercial trailers in the European Union in terms of sales by country, manufacturer, and trailer type and a survey of fuel-saving technologies.

2018.09.24 | White paper
Proposed second-phase greenhouse gas emissions standards for heavy-duty engines and vehicles in Canada

New standards to reduce emissions from new on-road heavy-duty vehicles is part of Canada’s economy-wide commitment to reduce GHG emissions 30% by 2030.

2018.09.21 | Policy update
See all publications

Staff blog

Certifying emissions from non-emitting transport: Trailers and the proposed HDV standards in the EU

Trailers are a key component of the freight transportation system, and although they do not emit CO2 of their own, they can provide a substantial contribution to curbing CO2 emissions from long-haul transportation.

Staff