For the first time in two decades, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has published new standards for semi-trucks to help reduce air pollution.
Some smaller trucking companies fear that the additional costs for these environmentally friendly vehicles could push them out of the industry.
It will be several years before these trucks hit the road. Manufacturers must follow the new EPA rule for model year 2027 trucks, but small business owners are preparing now.
“Is it good for the environment, is it good for our health? Yeah, I’m all for it,” said William John, the president of John N. John, a trucking company in Crowley, Louisiana. “But we’re going to need help somewhere to absorb those costs. For a family-owned company, it’s going to be a financial hit.”
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The EPA estimates the new requirements could cost an extra $8,304 per vehicle for a big rig with a heavy-duty diesel engine, but industry companies are bracing for the price to be higher.
“The price of trucks will probably go up (…) to $15,000 a piece,” John said. “Somebody has to pay for it. We don’t want to skimp on safety regulations and we don’t want to underpay our employees, so it could eventually trickle down to the consumer.”
The EPA says the new standards are 80% stronger and will significantly reduce nitrogen oxide emissions. Nitrogen dioxide has been linked to heart and lung problems.
“Right now we’re all paying for the pollution from these trucks,” said Lisa Frank with Environment America. “We pay in terms of higher hospital bills and asthma, missed work, school.”
EPA estimates by 2045, the rule will result in up to 2,900 fewer premature deaths, 6,700 fewer hospital admissions and 18,000 fewer cases of childhood asthma. However, because of its potential impact on the trucking industry, a group of 34 Republican senators are pushing to overturn the EPA rule.
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In a February press release, U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) said, “The Biden administration is burdening the trucking industry with burdensome regulation that would raise vehicle costs and hurt good-paying jobs. This aggressive EPA rule — which will hit mom-and-pop truck operations the hardest — is also ineffective because it incentivizes operators to keep using older, higher-emitting trucks longer.”
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John would like to see the government grant tax credits to companies that buy EPA approved trucks.
“Let them take a part of it, that it may be easier for us to swallow,” said John. “Otherwise, especially for smaller, two to three trucking companies, it comes down to maybe not being the job anymore.”