The European Commission proposal for heavy-duty vehicle CO2 standards sets fair, far-sighted, and achievable targets


The European Commission today proposed carbon dioxide (CO2) emission standards for heavy-duty vehicles. It is Europe’s first attempt at setting mandatory targets for reducing the greenhouse gas emissions from on-road freight vehicles, and a necessary step to meet the climate change mitigation objectives of the European Union.

The standards, which would establish CO2 targets for trucks out to 2030, are part of the EU’s third mobility package. The Commission estimates that, in combination with existing light-duty vehicle efficiency regulations, these standards would enable Europe to meet the objective set out by the Effort Sharing Regulation of cutting carbon emissions from road transport by one-quarter.

The Commission's action is to be applauded. Europe is the third largest global market for heavy-duty vehicles, and the only large market that has not yet promulgated efficiency standards for that part of the transportation sector. The proposal is a tremendous step forward by a crucial leader of the international effort to control greenhouse gas emissions and limit global warming.

The regulatory proposal requires efficiency improvements in tractor and rigid trucks with a gross vehicle weight over 16 tonnes, equipped with the most common axle configurations, 4×2 and 6×2. The proposed CO2 reduction targets are defined relative to a 2019 baseline. The baseline emissions for each regulated category will be determined from the data collected by the CO2 emissions monitoring and reporting scheme for heavy-duty vehicles.

Although the proposal covers four separate regulatory categories, it would set the same percentage-reduction targets for all categories: a 15% reduction by 2025 and a 30% reduction by 2030, both relative to the 2019 baselines. This represents an annual rate of improvement of 2.7% between 2020 and 2025, and of 3.2% between 2020 and 2030.  The 2030 reduction target is indicative and will be revised in 2022. 

Analysis by the ICCT indicates that in 2030 commercially available technologies could reduce the fuel consumption of long-haul tractor-trailers by 43% at payback periods of less than three years, delivering net economic benefits to transport operators. Long-haul tractor-trailers are responsible for the largest share of CO2 emissions from freight transportation.

“The economic returns and short payback times favor investment in heavy-duty vehicle efficiency technologies,” said Felipe Rodríguez, researcher at the ICCT. “But there are well-understood market barriers that tend to inhibit the adoption of available and ready-to-be-deployed technologies. This proposed regulation, for all the benefit it will bring, is something of a missed opportunity to fully correct this market failure. In the coming days, we will continue to analyze the proposal in greater detail.”

Besides the European Union, the United States, Canada, China, Japan, and India have established heavy-duty vehicle efficiency regulations. In addition, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, and South Korea are all in various stages of developing policies to improve the efficiency of their commercial vehicle fleets. In 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency published a second phase of its greenhouse gas standard for heavy-duty vehicles. That regulation mandates efficiency improvements in long-haul tractor-trailers of between 23% and 27% by 2027 (from a 2017 baseline), for an annual rate of improvement between 2.6% and 3.1%; similar the European Commission’s proposal. Similarly, China’s Phase 3 standards will reduce fuel consumption by up to 27% by 2019 from a 2012 baseline, corresponding to annual improvements of over 4%.

“Long-term efficiency standards create the right environment for industry to invest sustainable low-carbon technologies,” said Rachel Muncrief, ICCT program director. “The stringent, far-sighted standards proposed by the European Commission will accelerate the market uptake of existing fuel-saving technologies, while providing enough lead time for the development and deployment of emergent technologies.”

Rachel Muncrief,, +1 (202) 407-8343
Peter Mock,, +49 (0) 30 847-129102