THURSDAY, Oct. 6, 2022 (HealthDay News) -- Replacing diesel-powered trucks with electric vehicles would save tens of thousands of U.S. lives, a new American Lung Association report says.
The benefit would accrue if all medium- and heavy-duty trucks sold have zero emissions by 2050 and if the electricity they use comes from noncombustion renewable energy, not fossil fuels, by 2035, according to the report.
Among the 72 million Americans who live along the heaviest truck routes and who are mostly poor and people of color, eliminating diesel-powered trucks would eliminate nearly 2 million asthma attacks and 8.5 million lost workdays, the researchers calculated. The most heavily traveled truck routes are in and around Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Miami, San Diego, Phoenix, and San Francisco. Highways in these areas carry 8,500 or more truck trips per day. In 2020, heavy-duty vehicles made up about 6 percent of the on-road fleet. But they generated 59 percent of ozone and nitrogen oxide emissions and 55 percent of the particle pollution, including from brakes and tires, the report says.
"Two of the most widespread pollutants impacting health across the country are again created by a very small fraction of the vehicles on the road and that's why the heavy-duty sector going to zero emissions is so important," Will Barrett, national senior director of clean air and advocacy at the American Lung Association, told HealthDay. He is hopeful that these changes will occur as more states demand a changeover to electric cars and trucks.
"State policies can really be accelerated by stronger federal policies to push us more in the direction of zero-emission trucks and clean energy," Barrett said. "There are many companies already manufacturing zero-emission school buses and transit buses and heavy-duty trucks."
Of course, if all cars were zero-emission, the air would be even healthier, Barrett said. "Over four in 10 Americans are living in communities impacted by unhealthy air," he said. "Heavy duty trucks are a major contributor to regional air pollution and local health burdens. Technologies are available, policies are in place driving this change, and more people are aware of the root causes of our health inequities, in terms of who's exposed most."