First major proposal EU on Heavy Duty Vehicles environmental impact


The European Union (EU) plans to regulate the environmental impact of Heavy Duty Vehicles (HDV) such as trucks, buses and coaches to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and improve fuel efficiency.


This initiative forms part of the EU’s commitment to the 2015 Paris Agreement (COP21). The EU aims to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 40% from its 1990 levels by 2030 and continue with the objective of an 80-95% reduction by 2050¹.

Why regulate HDVs?

The EU, through the European Commission (Commission, wants to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from Heavy Duty Vehicles because they currently represent over 25% of road transport CO2 emissions. Unlike the US, China, Japan and Canada, Europe does not have fuel efficiency standards for rating Heavy Duty Vehicles nor systems to monitor their CO2 emissions.

EU road freight and hence HDV CO2 emissions have risen since 1990. EU executives estimate that CO2 truck emissions will remain at a similar level until 2050.

In 2015 the UK, Slovenia, the Netherlands and Belgium and, separately, Germany urged the Commission to propose binding C02 limits at a European level.

Key initiatives

The Commission’s ‘European Strategy for Low Emission Mobility’ in July 2016 and the 2017 Commission Work Programme REFIT Scoreboard address these issues. Legislation is proposed in three areas:

  1. Certifying CO2 emissions from HDV,
  2. Monitoring HDV fuel consumption and CO2 emissions to provide emissions and fuel consumption data for truck purchasers, and
  3. Setting fuel efficiency standards

Actions taken so far²

Until now, the Commission has not wanted to establish any legally-binding measures to reduce C02 emissions by Heavy Duty Vehicles. It has preferred a period of consultation with users, HDV industry groups such as the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (“ACEA”) whose members include Volvo, Iveco and Daimler and NGOs such as the International Council on Clean Transportation.

The issues have included debates between politicians, industry and environmental campaigners on the need for a legally binding emissions limit; whether a technology solution like cleaner fuels or electric vehicles could suffice; over current levels of HDV fuel efficiency and what they could become in the future.

The Commission is helping truck manufacturers develop the new Vehicle Energy Consumption Calculation Tool (VECTO) system to measure C02 emissions and fuel consumption from Heavy Duty Vehicles based on information including overall truck mass, tyre dimensions and engine type.

First major proposal

In April 2017, Reuters reported that the Commission will propose making cars, trucks, buses and vans pay higher road toll charges according to CO2 emitted. The ACEA said “It supported differentiating road charging according to C02 emissions as long as it promoted low emissions in real conditions of use and provided fair competition between types of vehicles.” However, the initiative is in its infancy as the full proposal will be published on 31 May 2017 and will require the approval of the European Parliament and member states.

Other possible solutions

In the long term, technology developments are expected to play a major role in reducing truck emissions. The Commission has been very pro-electric vehicles as they do not emit tailpipe exhaust. All the truck manufacturers are looking at developing electric and hybrid electric trucks. The Commission is also touting ‘intelligent road transport systems’ (ITS) that communicate between vehicles and road infrastructure. ITS technology enables drivers to obtain information on finding parking spots, the most effective travel routes and pay tolls. Adopting this technology could result in less traffic congestion and less C02 emissions.

Another technological avenue the Commission is exploring which could reduce CO2 emissions is truck platooning.

Binding EU HDV CO2 limiting legislation – still some way to go

Action needs to be taken for environmental, economic and political reasons to reduce CO2 emissions by Heavy Duty Vehicles. However, it will be some time before the Commission imposes legally binding measures.

FREVUE project

The rise in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, the concerns about the potentially harmful effects of nitrogen oxide in diesel fuel and carbon monoxide poisoning resulting from defective exhaust emissions are major issues for Europe. Among several initiatives that the European Commission has launched to reduce carbon dioxide emissions is the FREVUE project. FREVUE supports the introduction of electric freight vehicles to demonstrate and evaluate innovative urban logistics solutions in eight of Europe’s largest cities including Amsterdam, Lisbon, London, Madrid, Milan, Oslo, Rotterdam and Stockholm. It aims to achieve “essentially CO2 free city logistics in major urban centres by 2030” and argues that achieving this throughelectric vehicles (EVs) will simultaneously eliminate other harmful pollutants in city centres.

France: European electric vehicle pioneer

In 2016, France recorded the highest number of sales of 100% electric vehicles in Europe with 27,307 vehicles sold. [Source: Avere-France] France is also by far the largest market for electric vans in the EU and makes up nearly half the EU total. With France pioneering the adoption of eLCVs, it was natural for TIP Trailer Services in France to conduct research into eLCVs.

Sign up for our newsletter if you want to read more in the near future how TIP is charging electric vehicles.


¹Source: “Towards low-emission EU mobility” Briefing March 2017 by the European Parliament

²Source: – “What is the EU doing about truck CO2 emissions?”   Apr 7, 2016 (updated: Nov 21, 2016)

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