EU’s tougher emission standards for trucks and buses written in stone

By 2030, trucks and other heavy-duty vehicles in Europe must reduce their CO2 emissions by 45% from 2019 levels. That threshold will then be raised to 65% by 2035 and 90% by 2040 – the average lifespan of a truck is 18 years, that’s why.

The European Parliament had previously approved these new emission standards, but now the Council or the member states have also approved the text. The European decision also covers smaller trucks, city buses, and coaches.

Away from diesel trucks

The transport sector accounts for almost a quarter of Europe’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Nearly three-quarters of that comes from road transport. And of those emissions, about a quarter are emitted by trucks transporting goods by road.

A new European regulation will be created to further reduce emissions, one that is part of the broad ‘Fit for 55’ legislative package. This should ensure that the EU emits at least 55% less greenhouse gases by 2030 compared to 1990. In fact, by 2050, the Union should be climate-neutral and have zero net emissions.

Targets updated

The scope of the standards has been broadened compared to the previous legislation. All new heavy-duty vehicles with certified CO2 emissions will be covered, including smaller trucks, city buses, coaches, and trailers.

The existing 2025 target – a 15% emission reduction for heavy goods vehicles over 16 tons – is retained. Still, as climate goals have tightened over the years, the targets have been adjusted: by 2030, emission reductions must be at least 45% (the old target was 30%); by 2035, at least 65%; and by 2040, at least 90%.

Zero emission for urban buses by 2035

Flemish public transport operator De Lijn can breathe a sigh of relief. The Flemish coalition agreement targets bus transport to be completely emission-free in all city centers in Flanders by 2025. De Lijn, the company limping behind in greening its fleet, has already indicated that this measure is unrealistic.

The European Commission first proposed that city buses should be completely emission-free by 2030, but zero emissions for city buses will now be achieved only by 2035.

More than 200 million tons of oil savings

The new regulation is to be reviewed in 2027. Then, the Commission will also consider whether lighter trucks (less than five tons) should be included in the regulation.

The expected vital benefits of the legislation are reducing around 54 million tons of CO2 from 2020 to 2030 and generating around €25,000 in net savings for transport operators in the first five years of use for a new truck bought in 2025 against an additional purchasing cost of fewer than 2,000 euros. Oil savings of more than 200 million tons are also estimated by 2040.


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