European Trucks emit more than they should

40% more

On the 20th of July 2016 the European Commission announced it wants to regulate truck fuel economy and CO2 emissions.
A day earlier the Commission had fined European truckmakers a record €2.93 billion cartel fine for having operated a price-fixing cartel for 14 years.
These two announcements followed after nearly a decade of silence on trucks. Whilst the US, Japan, China and Canada were busy making their trucks cleaner and more efficient by introducing regulations, in Europe the trucks dossier lingered in a forgotten corner of the Commission’s climate department.
This is now about to change.
This website is the entry door to this topic: truck fuel economy and why we need a European regulation to make our trucks cleaner.
Find here information about this topic in German

For the last decade, the European Commission has been slowly moving towards putting a regulation on the table that would limit the fuel consumption of trucks in Europe.

Since fuel consumption is directly responsible for the carbon emissions in the atmosphere, this regulation is best known as the CO2 standards regulation.

Trucks in Europe are everywhere – they transport goods from one country to another over thousands of kilometres each year, and they have become the backbone of the continent’s economy.

If the amount of fuel trucks consume was progressively decreased, it would be a direct benefit for the whole continent in terms of energy security and the environment. It would also make our industry more competitive and help fending off attempts by the US, Japan and China to overtake Europe as the global leader in truck manufacturing and innovation.

The objective of this report is simple:

We want to explain why Europe should pass a regulation on fuel efficiency for trucks, just like countries such as the US, China and Japan did before.

The reality of this attempt to regulate the sector by the European Commission is that the idea has been stalled in a closet for more than 10 years. And while almost every vehicle on the roads of Europe has a regulation to make them more fuel-efficient, trucks and buses are still polluting more than they should.

For this report Transport & Environment, the leading NGO on transport and climate policy in Europe, gathered all the available information on the topic of fuel consumption in the truck industry – so that you can find everything in one place.

Report summary

What does business want?

Industry and businesses all across Europe are reliant on trucks as three quarters of goods transported are done so by truck. That means trucking costs are also an important consideration for both sectors. Increasingly, businesses are becoming aware of the climate challenges associated with trucking.
In June 2016 a group of business led by IKEA, Nestle, DHL Deutsche Post and DB Schenker sent a letter to the European Commission outlining their views.

The letter

Dear President of the European Commission, Mr. Jean-Claude Juncker

In December 2015 195 countries adopted the first-ever universal, legally binding global climate deal. As part of the Paris Agreement the European Union has committed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 40% by 2030.

The transport sector has an important role to play in meeting these targets. Road transport currently accounts for a fifth of Europe’s carbon emissions. And while trucks make up less than 5 percent of all vehicles on the road, they are responsible for 25 percent of road transport’s fuel use and carbon emissions. Meeting the EU’s 2030 climate targets as well as the more challenging targets agreed in Paris, will require major efforts in the transport and road freight sector.

The freight transport industry is committed to meeting that challenge. Many big shippers, freight forwarders and hauliers have already voluntarily committed to reducing their carbon emissions, at company level or as part of green freight programmes. The companies that sign this letter are aware of their responsibility and are willing to scale up their commitment to help the EU meet its ambitious climate goals.

However, this is a challenge business cannot meet alone and policy makers need to create the right environment for this transition to take place. One area where the EU can make a major contribution is the fuel efficiency and CO2 emissions of new trucks.

Indeed, despite progress on reducing pollutant emissions (thanks to the EURO-standards), new truck fuel consumption has remained stable for almost two decades.[i] We do not believe that introducing a truck CO2 test procedure and monitoring truck CO2 emissions would be sufficient to kick start the market for ultra-fuel efficient trucks in Europe.

We therefore call on you to propose post-2020 standards that reduce the CO2 emissions and fuel consumption of new trucks and trailers. Europe should follow the example of Japan, China and most notably the United States, that have successfully introduced fuel economy regulation for trucks.

Better truck fuel economy will benefit both the economy and the environment. Businesses and consumers across all sectors of the economy rely on trucks to move materials and products. Fuel is a major cost of owning and operating heavy-duty trucks. It costs about €35.000 per year[ii] to fuel tractor trailers, which consume around 60% of all truck fuel in Europe.[iii] These fuel costs are then passed on to consumers through higher priced products. Realising the 35% cost-effective potential for truck fuel efficiency improvements could save businesses up to €10.000 per year, per truck, whilst avoiding 37 million tons of carbon being emitted annually by 2030.[iv]

We agree with Commissioner Arias Canete that “CO2 standards for trucks are essential”.[v] We therefore urge you to use the upcoming “decarbonisation of transport communication” to commit to the introduction of fuel efficiency standards for new trucks and trailers and to make a proposal to introduce standards within the next two years.

We are convinced fuel efficiency standards would save consumers and businesses money at the pump, lessen the economic and security threats presented by oil dependence and price volatility, and help European manufacturers and suppliers develop new technologies that spur investment in research, development, and production of the ultra-efficient vehicles Europe needs to make the transition to a low carbon economy.

[i] European Commission, Strategy for reducing Heavy-Duty Vehicles’ fuel consumption and CO2 emissions, 2014, p3.

[ii] Tractor-trailer combination consuming 34.5l/100km on average, driving 120.000km/year, paying €0.9/litre

[iii] ICCT, Overview of the heavy-duty vehicle market and CO2 emissions in the European Union, 2015, p6.

[iv] European Commission, Impact Assessment accompanying the Strategy for Reducing Heavy-Duty Vehicles Fuel Consumption and CO2 Emissions, 2014, p37.

[v] Statement by Commissioner Arias Canete in the European Parliament Environment Committee on 19 April http://www.politico.eu/pro/co2-standards-for-cars-and-trucks-essential-to-eu-climate-targets/

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Geopolitics of fuel

Transport is by far the biggest driver of oil demand at EU level with 2/3rds of the final demand coming from transport. According to a study by Cambridge Econometrics – the EU’s dependence on crude oil and diesel imports has increased in the last 15 years. In 2015 Europe spent in total around €215bn on crude oil and diesel imports. In 2015 Europe spent in total around €215bn on crude oil and diesel imports.

The truck cartel

It started with a meeting in a “cosy hotel” in Brussels back in 1997. Truck CEOs had come together to discuss something that would guarantee huge profits for the years to come. This meeting in a cosy hotel marked the beginnings of a price fixing cartel that would last for the next fourteen (14!) years! MAN, Volvo/Renault, Daimler, Scania, Iveco and DAF all participated and jointly fixed prices and delayed the introduction of emission technologies.

How many trucks?

450.000 medium and heavy trucks have been produced in Europe. Around 20% of these are medium heavy trucks (3.5 to 15 tonnes) but the vast majority (around 80%) of vehicles are heavy trucks (+15 tonnes).

Truck sales have increased again after the economic downturn – 2009 was a very bad year – but are still below pre-2008 production and sales levels. Recently truck sales have been on the rise: during the first semester of 2016 commercial vehicle registrations increased by 13% according to the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA). In this period there was a growth in all major markets such as Italy (+30.8%), Spain (+14.0%), France (+12.7%) and Germany (+10.4%).

20 years without fuel efficiency gains

In the past 20 years, trucks have become safer, more powerful and cleaner in terms of air pollution. All these achievements have been made possible through public policy providing the right incentives and a level playing field for the industry to compete and innovate in a fair manner.

But whereas European regulations regarding safety and air pollution were put in place in the sector, there is no EU regulation limiting the fuel consumption and CO2 emissions of trucks.

Currently we are dealing with a surreal situation in Europe where a truck from 1995 consumes roughly the same amount of fuel as a 2016 truck.

The topic of regulation is addressed below and multiple times in the rest of this website. It is the core issue Europe is currently facing: when will it finally introduce a regulation to limit fuel consumption of trucks.

European emission standards define the acceptable limits for exhaust emissions of new vehicles sold in the EU and the EEA member states. The emission standards are defined in a series of European Union directives staging the progressive introduction of increasingly stringent standards.

Currently emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx), total hydrocarbon (THC), non-methane hydrocarbons (NMHC), carbon monoxide (CO) and particulate matter (PM) are regulated for most vehicle types, including cars, lorries, trains, tractors and similar machinery, barges (but not seagoing ships) and aeroplanes.

We are currently under the EURO VI standard for Heavy-duty vehicles, such as lorries.*

*Commission Regulation (EU) 582/2011 implements and amends Regulation (EC) No 595/2009 with respect to emissions from heavy duty vehicles (Euro VI)

Regulation (EC) No 661/2009 — type-approval for motor vehicles and trailers

New motor vehicles must meet the same technical requirements throughout the European Union. This helps ensure a high level of road safety and environmental protection, and makes the EU’s automotive industry more competitive.
WHAT DOES THE REGULATION DO? It sets out the technical requirements and the procedures to ensure that new motor vehicles meet EU safety and energy efficiency standards.

KEY POINTS This regulation establishes requirements for the type-approval of:

  • the safety of motor vehicles and their trailers;
  • the energy efficiency of motor vehicles (by making it mandatory to install tyre pressure monitoring systems and gear shift indicators for passenger cars);
  • the safety and energy efficiency of tyres and their levels of noise emissions.

It applies to:

  • motor vehicles with at least 4 wheels, used to transport passengers (category M)
  • motor vehicles with at least 4 wheels, intended for goods transport (category N)
  • trailers (category O).

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Trucks & the climate

Trucks aren’t just the backbone of the European economy, they’re also a major source of Greenhouse Gas emissions.

Testing truck CO2 emissions – VECTO

Unlike passenger cars, there is no standard EU procedure to test new truck CO2 emissions. The European Commission has spent much of the last decade developing such a test and has called this procedure VECTO. This test is an essential building block for truck CO2 regulation.

  • mercedes trucks on a parking

When regulation becomes the solution

One key area of discussion is whether market forces alone can deliver sufficient CO2 savings or whether additional regulatory intervention is needed. Truckmakers oppose regulation but the European Commission announced that it will introduce truck CO2 standards during this Commission.

Geopolitics of fuel

Transport is by far the biggest driver of oil demand at EU level with 2/3rds of the final demand coming from transport. According to a study by Cambridge Econometrics – the EU’s dependence on crude oil and diesel imports has increased in the last 15 years. In 2015 Europe spent in total around €215bn on crude oil and diesel imports. In 2015 Europe spent in total around €215bn on crude oil and diesel imports.

Truck technology

What makes a truck consumes less fuel? Part of the solution is the way a truck driver actually drives the truck - but a huge part is about the technological options one can purchase with the truck. As a matter of fact truck drivers and hauliers could already save more than 30% of fuel each year, by adding these expensive options proposed by manufacturers.

The truck cartel

It started with a meeting in a “cosy hotel” in Brussels back in 1997. Truck CEOs had come together to discuss something that would guarantee huge profits for the years to come. This meeting in a cosy hotel marked the beginnings of a price fixing cartel that would last for the next fourteen (14!) years! MAN, Volvo/Renault, Daimler, Scania, Iveco and DAF all participated and jointly fixed prices and delayed the introduction of emission technologies.

The economics of the trucking industry

Having more than 13 million trucks on EU roads and dominating the global truck market with a share of 40%, the European trucking industry is enormous. Controlled by five companies, this market will continue to grow in the next decade - read all about their share and their huge economic influence in our report on the economics of the trucking industry.

  • European Commission flags Berlaymont VECTO test

The position of the European Commission

The EU first signaled it wanted to tackle truck CO2 emissions in 2007. For almost a decade, the Commission remained vague about its plans and focused on developing a test procedure to measure truck CO2 emissions called VECTO.

What you can do in a decade: EU vs US

While the EU originally introduced in 2007 a request to create a legislation via the European Council, in the last 10 years nothing has been concretely done to put a text on the table and vote for a regulation. In the meantime the US passed its own regulation, and even had time to improve it - making today its trucks much more fuel efficient than the ones of the EU.

The rest of the world is ahead of us

China adopted its first set of truck fuel economy standards in 2011. Three years later it finalised the second - more demanding - truck fuel economy standard. In May 2016 the Chinese government announced the 3rd phase. The EU is currently the only large developed economy that does not regulate fuel efficiency for trucks.