Trucks & the climate

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

Too big to ignore

Emissions from heavy-duty vehicles (HDV), which include trucks and buses, increased by 36% between 1990 and 2010 and continue to grow. HDV emissions currently represent around 30% of all road transport CO2 emissions and 5% of all EU CO2 emissions. Unless additional measures are taken HDV emissions will increase to 40% – or even 45% according to the ICCT – of road transport emissions by 2030. By 2030 trucks and buses will emit approximately 15% of total ‘effort sharing’ or non-ETS emissions.

Why 5% of vehicles is responsible for 30% of emissions

In 2012 trucks and buses were responsible for around 30% of road transport emissions. That is equivalent to more than 5% of EU GHG emissions and around 10% of total non-ETS emissions. That implies that less than 5% of all vehicles on the road emit around 30% of road transport CO2 emissions, which can be explained by their high mileages – around 100,000 km per year for a long haul truck – and high fuel consumption – around 34,5 l/100km or 900g CO2/km.

What can be done about truck CO2 emissions?

Generally speaking there are two big policy options to reduce truck CO2 emissions: increased vehicle efficiency and increased system efficiency.

Much of this website is dedicated to explaining why vehicle efficiency matters and makes economic sense. It all comes down to the fact that new trucks could have 30-40% lower fuel consumption and CO2 emissions if all available and cost-effective technology were to be applied. More efficient vehicles will enter the market through new vehicle sales and over time the whole fleet will become more efficient/lower carbon.

The transport system is another major influencer of truck GHG emissions. Today, around one in four trucks drive around empty. Filling rates hover around 43%. So if we’d organize the transport system better, business could ship around the same quantity of goods with perhaps 20-30% fewer trucks. Reducing empty runs and improving filling rates is something that can be encouraged through higher taxes and/or road tolls.

For more information about how to reduce transport emissions, please consult the ICCT study

Reducing CO2 emissions from road transport in the European Union: An evaluation of policy options

Contact our experts:

William Todts

Director, Freight and Climate
+32 (0)495 799 505

Stef Cornelis

Safer and Cleaner Trucks Officer
+32 (0)484 27 71 91 s

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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.

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.

  • 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.

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.