Moving to zero-emission trucks and clean energy sources could avoid tens of thousands of premature deaths and 1.75 million asthma attacks, according to a new study by the American Lung Association
The Lung Association study focused on the health impacts of switching to zero-emission heavy duty vehicles in areas of the United States that have 8,500 or more truck trips per day.The report estimates that in counties with major trucking routes, the transition to zero-emission heavy-duty transportation and clean, non-combustion energy by 2050 would result in up to $US735 billion in cumulative health benefits, 66,800 avoided deaths, and 1.75 million avoided asthma attacks.
The Association’s national senor director for advocacy and clean air, Will Barrett said they looked at long-haul trucks, school buses and parcel vans, because while they only represent 6% of all the vehicles on the road, they generate the “lion’s share” of transport-based air pollution.
In 2020, heavy-duty vehicles generated 59% of ozone and particle-forming NOx emissions 55 per cent of the particle pollution, which includes dust from brake and tire wear.
“We wanted to look at the potential benefits for the shift to zero emission in the heavy-duty sector, because we know that this small portion of the fleet is causing the most damage to people’s lungs,” said Barrett.
The American Lung Association report found that the pollution caused by these vehicles is particularly acute in communities near major trucking routes.
Warehouse centers, major highways and parts are among the primary hubs of truck traffic all around the world, and particularly in the United States.
And as Barrett pointed out, the majority of people living along major freight routes in the United States are going to be lower income, people of color, and therefore “bearing the greatest burdens of truck traffic”.
In March, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a fact sheet, focused on freight-trucking routes in the United States and it found that 72 million Americans live in close proximity to heavy trucking corridors.
According to the report, the three US counties that would see the most significant health benefits from a switch to zero-emission trucks are Los Angeles, Cook County in Illinois and Harris County in Texas.
But Barrett said they are now seeing a shift with more zero-emission trucks being produced. He added six states have now adopted policies that will boost the sale of these vehicles.
“We’ve seen a lot of focus on zero-emission school buses or transit buses,” he added. “Getting these to shift more quickly to zero emission is going to have a tremendous public health benefit and save lives.”
However, Barrett said he still expects to see the number of trucks on the road to continue to grow, particularly as the population and retail businesses continue to increase.
“For people dealing with the daily challenges of lung-health issues or heart-health issues that are made worse by polluted air, this is everyday challenge,” he added. “Everyone knows somebody who is dealing with asthma, lung or heart disease, which are all made worse by pollution. What we’re trying to do with our new report is highlight the scale of the problem.
“In the United States, 40 per cent of all Americans are living in a community impacted by unhealthy air. It really should be a high priority for policymakers to take action, and zero-emission tucks can essentially eliminate the impact of diesel exhausts overnight.”
This new report follows a separate study by the American Lung Foundation in March, which claimed a nationwide transition to clean transport and energy could also generate $US 1.2 trillion in public health benefits over the next 30 years.