“Environmental justice” is at the forefront of executive orders made by President Joe Biden in the aftermath of the Trump administration’s environmental regulations. A priority of these efforts will be actions helping to reduce overall emissions of greenhouse gasses, especially within minority communities through which many trucks haul their shipments.
“The policy is sprinkled into everything this administration is going to do,” explained American Trucking Associations energy and environmental affairs counsel, Glen Kedzie. “Our industry needs to get to know the term. We frequent ports, rail yards, warehouses, and inner cities as part of our conducting business.”
According to Kedzie, these orders will pertain to the continuation of reduction efforts within regions across the United States that have seen many negative health aspects as a result of pollution from GHG levels, particulate matter, and nitrogen oxides from heavy trucking activity. Thus, the trucking industry will experience many changes and boosted pressure to make environmentally healthier changes–quickly.
Luckily, the trucking industry as a whole has worked hard throughout recent years to reduce its carbon footprint and to comply with regulatory changes surrounding the issue of greenhouse gas emissions since 2007. These efforts include participation in the Environmental Protection Agency’s SmartWay Program, as well as compliance within its Phase 1 and Phase 2 GHG regulation updates, Kedzie added.
Biden’s January executive order calling for environmental justice prioritization pledged that the regulatory change would hold high standards for pollution sources across the country, particularly for sources that “disproportionately harm communities of color and low-income communities.”
According to the official executive order, “the federal government has failed to meet that commitment in the past, [and] it must advance environmental justice.”
This change is going to be a “big thing for us,” Kedzie said of the trucking industry, noting that workers within the trucking sector should work diligently to participate in these green efforts, especially because the order will allow the Biden administration to have broader oversight over all sources of energy and pollution production, including both stationary and mobile components.
“If we don’t [participate’ voluntarily], the administration is going to [carry out these efforts] through regulatory and mandatory measures,” Kedzie said.
To progress with an easier, more widespread adoption of zero-emission technology, the trucking industry will need proper inducements, explained clean transportation advocate at GreenLatinos, Andrea Marpillero-Colomina.
“I think that the major issue with the trucking industry is that there are no incentives,” she explained, adding that cost-effective business mindsets will cause the trucking industry to continue using its fossil fuel-powered vehicles for as long as it can until it feels persuaded to make environmentally-friendly changes.
Forcing those changes, though, may be less productive than one may expect, Marpillero-Colomina noted.
“I don’t think it’s going to be effective. It’s not going to win any allies to point fingers at the trucking industry and say, ‘You guys are responsible for this,’” she said.
Efficient communication between government officials and trucking companies is key in this case, added transportation analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council, Patricio Portillo.
“There needs to be close collaboration between the state regulatory agencies and motor carriers so there can be a lot of back and forth in terms of what’s needed,” he said.
California-based environmental researcher for ATA, Mike Tunnell, agreed, explaining that because fleets have already made major changes over the last several years, we should be able to assume that future clean air efforts will be much easier moving forward.
“The industry has come a long way in the last decade or so, and we’ll see how the [EPA’s] Clean Trucks initiative will play out,” Tunnel said. “Then the question becomes, ‘How much is enough?’ At the end of the day, if you end up with an all-electric fleet, does this issue go away? Or is it really a matter of trucks in your neighborhood?”
Still, he believes these actions will continue to snowball in the coming years.
“It sounds like the administration is making environmental justice a priority with trucks operating in or near some of these communities,” he said. “That will definitely be looked at as a potential source of emissions. I think we can expect more activity in this area.”