Requiring manufacturers to produce zero-emission trucks and buses is a turn New Jersey cannot afford to miss. The discussions to adopt the Advanced Clean Trucks rule begin this week, and the Department of Environmental Protection should seize the opportunity to transition trucks and buses from diesel to zero-emission motors. This is one of the most powerful ways for New Jersey to build on its momentum as a climate leader and reduce pollution, address equity issues, improve public health and spark economic growth across the state.
Transportation is the most polluting sector in New Jersey. It emits nearly half of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions and is the largest contributor of local air pollution, which causes a host of health threats. Trucks and buses are responsible for a disproportionate share of this pollution because they run on diesel fuel. Delivering on Gov. Murphy’s Energy Master Plan, which prioritizes zero-emission transportation, the ACT can help solve these problems and get New Jersey closer to 100% zero-emission truck and bus sales by 2040 and a full fleet turnover by 2050.
Paving the road toward a healthier, more equitable state
New Jersey is moving the clean transportation market forward with incentives for light-duty electric vehicles and the new NJ ZIP — a medium-duty zero-emission vehicle voucher program. Adopting the ACT will further advance the transition to zero-emission trucks and buses and help reduce pollution and improve air quality and health.
Diesel medium- and heavy-duty trucks and buses make up almost 11% of vehicles on New Jersey roads. This sector is dirtier than passenger vehicles and is responsible for 42% and 63% of transportation-related emissions of nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides, contaminants that cause asthma and premature death. The DEP estimates that once the ACT goes into effect in 2024, it will help reduce carbon emissions by 2.6 million metric tons through 2040. According to the American Lung Association, a move to medium- and heavy-duty as well as light-duty zero-emission vehicles would prevent nearly 200 premature deaths, more than 2,300 asthma attacks and 11,000 lost workdays in New Jersey — roughly $2 billion a year in public health benefits.
Adopting the ACT is key to improving the health of all New Jerseyans. Quickly transitioning to zero-emission trucks and buses in an equitable way that prioritizes the state’s most overburdened communities, will be particularly powerful for lower income families and communities of color located near freight corridors, ports, bus depots and Newark airport — who live with higher pollution risk. For example, about one in four children in Newark have asthma. This is three times higher than the national average. In a post-COVID-19 world, toxic air pollution is an even greater concern, as a recent study showed that increased exposure to pollution can also make people more susceptible to COVID-19 and aggravate the disease.
The right signal for manufacturers, owners and consumers
Companies recognize the benefits that come with a transition to cleaner transportation and understand that demand for these vehicles is increasing. So much so, that they are already investing heavily to advance more vehicle options and have announced scores of new zero-emission truck models. By adopting the ACT, New Jersey can build on its existing clean transportation incentives and facilitate the development of the zero-emission medium- and heavy-duty vehicle market in the Northeast. The ACT would create the momentum for New Jersey fleet owners and operators to capitalize on a growing sustainable zero-emission transportation and freight system.
There are zero-emission trucks and buses that have a lower total cost of ownership than their diesel equivalents today, even without incentives. And continued advances in technology are expected to make all zero-emission trucks and buses cost competitive by the end of the decade.
Consumers also know that the transition to zero-emission trucks and buses will benefit them and their communities. Nearly half of millennials avoid home delivery because they are concerned about environmental impact. About 80% of them say sustainability guides their purchase decisions, and nearly 60% are willing to change their shopping habits to reduce environmental impact.
The ACT is more than good transportation policy. It’s a powerful opportunity for New Jersey to reinforce the climate, health and economic growth priorities state leaders have already committed to. And it’s one we can’t afford to pass up.