Illinois can help grow its economy and we can all breathe cleaner air, if we put into effect simple standards for diesel and zero-emission trucks. This matters because every day, heavy trucks drive through our neighborhoods, past our schools, hospitals, and homes, spewing toxic pollution as they go. Elected officials have already set their sights on making our state a leader in electric vehicles. Governor Pritzker said Illinois should be “the best state in the nation to drive and manufacture an EV.”
What are clean truck standards? They have two parts. One, the Advanced Clean Trucks (ACT) rule, directs manufacturers to increase the share of new electric heavy-duty vehicles in Illinois over time. The other, the Heavy-Duty Low-NOx Omnibus (HDO) rule, sets standards for new diesel trucks to use modern engine technologies that emit less pollution.
A study by the Respiratory Health Association found that exhaust from diesel engines in Illinois will lead to more than 5,000 asthma attacks, nearly 200 heart attacks, and 416 premature deaths across the state in 2023. It also revealed that 12 of Illinois’ 102 counties rank in the top nine percent of all U.S. counties at risk of the health, societal, and economic impacts caused by diesel air pollution, along with the fifth-highest number of deaths from diesel pollution per capita. Clean truck standards, especially the HDO standard, are needed to save lives being continuously lost to diesel pollution.
Even though they only make up 7% of the vehicles on the road, heavy trucks account for two-thirds of the nitrogen oxides - a chemical that causes asthma, lung cancer, heart attacks, strokes, and premature death - and one-third of the planet-warming carbon pollution from vehicles. People who are working-class, poor, Black, and brown are hit hardest due to the disproportionate concentration of truck-intensive facilities in their communities.
Clean truck standards would significantly reduce health-harming pollution while cutting fuel and maintenance costs. Much work is still needed to fully address the disparate impacts of the freight sector, but these standards are a critical step in relieving the burdens felt by communities. Adopting these rules will save hundreds of lives, prevent hundreds of thousands of health incidents, and provide more than $9 billion in public health benefits.
According to an independent analysis, clean truck rules would also create jobs: nearly 1,100 net jobs by 2035. Many of those jobs would be in electrical manufacturing and charging infrastructure construction: good-paying, family-sustaining jobs with average salaries above $91,000 a year. Adopting clean truck rules will create $26 billion in benefits for our economy while creating jobs, cleaning up our air, and accelerating Illinois’ leadership in EV manufacturing. Dozens of businesses have publicly supported adopting clean truck rules, including Lion, Rivian, IKEA, Nestle, Siemens, and Unilever — all of which have a major presence in Illinois.
Illinois is on its way to becoming an electric vehicle manufacturing hub. The ACT rule is critical to make sure people right here in Illinois enjoy the benefits of the shift to electric vehicles, like cleaner air and a healthier planet – we shouldn’t just export those benefits to other states.
Governor Pritzker can improve our economy and our health while demonstrating his leadership on climate and clean jobs, by adopting these rules as soon as possible for a better Illinois.
José Acosta-Córdova is the senior transportation policy analyst for the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization. He lives in Urbana-Champaign. J.C. Kibbey is the senior Illinois energy advocate at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). He lives in Chicago.
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