The new pollution rule you aren't hearing about, and why it's a big deal

Keith Gaby

Editor’s note: This post was updated on Oct. 25, 2016.

Our economy couldn’t function without trucks: Food wouldn’t get to stores, factories wouldn’t have supplies, and that package you ordered from Amazon would never arrive. But as they make America work, trucks also put a lot of pollution in the air.

In fact, trucks produce nearly half a billion tons of climate pollution a year. Without new efficiency standards, they’re on track to increase climate pollution more than nearly any other source over the next few decades. Until now.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation recently finalized a new rule that will make trucks significantly more efficient over the next decade. It will cut carbon pollution by 1.1 billion metric tons a year by 2027, and save truckers millions in fuel costs.

The new standards, which build on the first phase of standards rolled out in 2011, cover vehicles such as freight trucks, buses, garbage trucks, and heavy-duty pickup trucks and vans.

It’s a really big deal for our health and the climate – the 18-wheeler of truck fuel efficiency rules.

In addition to its health and environmental benefits, the rule will reduce trucks’ fuel consumption by 2 billion barrels of oil, which helps explain why so many in the trucking industry are fully on board with this change.

Three big efforts to rein in pollution

The Clean Truck rule is part of the EPA’s responsibility to cut climate pollution, as well as the conventional air pollution that causes asthma attacks and other serious lung and heart problems, and can lead to premature death.

It has included tackling three big sources of air and climate pollution: transportation, methane from the oil and gas industry, and power plants.

  • Early in his first term, President Obama boosted the required fuel efficiency for passenger cars to nearly 55 miles per gallon by 2025. This will cut climate pollution from cars by 6 billion tons over the life of the program.
  • New rules will also reduce methane pollution from new oil and gas wells, as well as flaring and venting gas on public lands. (Side note: Methane drives 25 percent of current global warming.)
  • Biggest of all, the landmark Clean Power Plan will set limits for the largest source of America’s climate pollution – power plants.

Now it’s up to the next president to build on the progress we’ve already made.