The long road to truck efficiency standards

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).
A 2014 Commission communication did a great job describing the problem (increasing emissions, stagnating fuel efficiency) but didn’t commit to anything except more work on the test procedure.
Late 2014 a new Commission took office and in 2015 the world agreed on a historic climate deal in Paris. At EU level the Paris agreement is being translated into national emission targets (effort sharing regulation) which requires a 30% emission cut in the transport sector. To help EU countries respect the 2030 climate law, in 2016 the European Commission published its “European Strategy for Low-Emission Mobility” in which it finally announces that the EU will introduce truck CO2 standards.
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Download the original document of the European Commission (reproduced here digitally).
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Why it took so long

The big obstacle for standard setting was always said to be the lack of a procedure to measure truck CO2 emissions. If you don’t know how much CO2 a truck emits, you can’t really regulate its emissions, can you? So the efforts of the Commission were focused on developing a test procedure that enables it to measure how much fuel trucks burn (or CO2 emit) on a typical duty cycle. This truck CO2 test procedure (called VECTO) will be formally adopted in 2016.

But the problem isn’t just technical. Japan, China and especially the US have all managed to regulate trucks in far shorter time periods. The US started work on the phase 1 rule in 2010 and adopted a test procedure and CO2 standards one year later. The big difference between the EU and the US is that the American had decided they wanted standards. The administration was given the task and the means and subsequently delivered. In Europe, the Commission decided it wanted a test procedure first and that it was going to rely on the truckmakers to develop it. The truckmakers were – understandably – not in a hurry to develop a test procedure that would later form the basis for regulation.

Read more

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 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.

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.

What is going to happen now?

In July 2016 the Commission published its low emission mobility strategy which says:

“The EU will also need to introduce measures to actively curb carbon dioxide emissions from lorries, buses and coaches. Other parts of the world, such as the United States, China, Japan and Canada, have already introduced standards, and some European manufacturers participate in these schemes. Europe cannot lag behind.”

“This Commission will, therefore, speed up analytical work on design options for carbon dioxide emission standards for such vehicles and will launch a public consultation to prepare the ground for a proposal during this mandate. Given the average lifetime of a lorry of about 10 years, vehicles sold in 2020 will still be on European roads in 2030. In order to be able to make swift progress different options for standards will be considered, including for engines only or for the whole vehicles, with the objective of curbing emissions well before 2030.”

So the European Strategy for Low-Emission Mobility gives the Commission a clear mandate to develop truck fuel efficiency or CO2 standards during its current mandate. That means the standards need to be proposed well before 2019. If the Commission gives this adequate priority it should be able to present a proposal by the end of 2017.

The Commission has already started consulting with industry, researchers and NGOs. It will need to create a team of experts that can write a proper impact analysis and regulatory proposal. In this proposal the EC will have to address things like which type of trucks to regulate, what the baseline is, how much improvement it wants and when standards take effect.

The Commission wants the new standard to lead to CO2 cuts well before 2030 which means the standard will have to kick in around 2025.

Download the low emissions mobility strategy in pdf

PDF version