Despite the fact that there are far fewer heavy-duty trucks and buses than motorcycles and cars plying the roads in India, heavy-duty vehicles (HDVs) contribute the majority of transportation-related emissions of black carbon (BC), fine particulate matter (PM2.5), and nitrogen oxides (NOX). Older and/or poorly maintained HDVs can become high emitters, releasing levels of pollution many times higher than other vehicles in their class. These older, high-emitting vehicles are key targets for pollution reduction programs.
Any effective fleet modernization program should make provisions to get rid of the older, higher emitting vehicles in a fleet, including trucks and buses, on an accelerated schedule. Those vehicles should be scrapped and replaced, preferably with HDVs that comply with the most stringent emission standards. In India those standards are Bharat Stage (BS) VI, which will come into effect in April 2020. Implementing the fleet modernization program starting in April 2019 would provide adequate time to create the information and financial systems and infrastructure facilities necessary to scrap old vehicles in an efficient and environmentally sound way.
A fleet modernization program is an ambitious policy requiring major investment for it to be implemented at the national level. To maximize the benefits of the program, policies ranging from periodic vehicle registration to low emission zones (LEZ) would be needed. The program could begin with a subset of the proposed policies implemented in major urban areas, where similar vehicle emission reduction programs already are being considered, and later could be scaled up to the national level. The objectives of a heavy-duty fleet modernization program are threefold: to rapidly reduce in-use emissions; to accelerate the transition to newer emission standards; and to closely track and monitor the in-use fleet. Such a fleet modernization program would not only achieve short-term emission reductions from retiring vehicles, but also would ensure long-term emission reductions by promoting the use of the cleanest new vehicles available.
Although the fleet modernization program discussed in this paper is focused on India’s heavy-duty vehicle fleet, adopting such a program would be an efficient step in improving the air quality and public health in India. The in-use HDV fleet currently is less than 3% of the fleet share but contributes the majority of PM and NOX emissions from on-road vehicles. Older and poorly maintained HDVs have a higher likelihood of emitting disproportionately high levels of pollutants.
Adoption of BS VI standards by itself will reduce HDV emissions in India, but the near-term benefits are restricted because older, poorly maintained vehicles will still contribute a majority of the in-use fleet emissions in the near-term. A scrappage program would remove these high-emitting vehicles from the in-use fleet on an accelerated timeline and effectively reduce both PM and NOX emissions. Early implementation of the BS VI standards ensures that replaced vehicles can be equipped with the most advanced emission control technology. By combining the scrappage program and BS VI promotion, the fleet modernization program maximizes emissions reduction from motor vehicles in both the near- and long-term, and smooth India’s transition to BS VI standards by offering subsidies and incentives.
Over the next 20 years India can avoid more than 428,000 premature deaths due to urban vehicular emissions by implementing a fleet modernization program similar to one of those described in this report, despite the growth expected in the vehicle market. The maximum benefits of such a program can be achieved by conducting a subsidized scrappage program along with early adoption of BS VI standards starting as soon as 2019. Additional benefits could begin to accrue even sooner if key regions with serious air quality issues were to move in this direction ahead of a national program.