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

Comparison of fuel consumption and emissions for representative heavy-duty vehicles in Europe

Experimentally investigates the fuel consumption, pollutant emissions and aerodynamic performance of three European heavy-duty vehicles through chassis dynamometer and track testing.

2018.04.08 | Consultant report
Automation in the long haul: Challenges and opportunities of autonomous heavy-duty trucking in the United States

An analysis of the state of autonomous trucking technology, including the benefits and drawbacks of adoption, and the impact on fuel use and emissions in the on-road freight sector.

2018.03.29 | Working paper
Fuel consumption simulation of HDVs in the EU: Comparisons and limitations

Analyzes the model structure, simulation flow, and limitations of the EU’s regulatory tool for the simulation of heavy-duty vehicle fuel consumption. Compares the regulatory vehicle simulation tools used in the EU and the United States.

2018.03.06 | White paper
See all publications

Staff blog

Unique challenges and solutions to sustainable transport issues in Africa

The transport sector accounts for almost one quarter of all global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and is one of the main contributors to urban air pollution in most cities. African countries and cities are no different. They require a thoughtful approach that considers the tradeoff between economic growth and sustainable development.

Staff