Certifying emissions from non-emitting transport: Trailers and the proposed HDV standards in the EU

If you follow the news on regulatory developments for tackling CO2 emissions from transport, you are probably familiar with the European Commission’s proposal to set mandatory reduction targets for trucks. (In case you’re not acquainted with the latest, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.) In short, the Commission’s proposal sets a mandatory target to reduce the average CO2 emissions from new HDVs by 15% in 2025 and an indicative reduction target of at least 30% in 2030, both relative to a 2019 baseline. The reason the 2030 target is only indicative is because it will be subject to a review in 2022. During this review, the Commission will also consider “the setting of CO2 reduction targets to other types of heavy- duty vehicles including trailers”. That last bit is the focus of this blog. 

Trailers are a key component of the freight transportation system, and although they do not emit CO2 of their own, they can provide a substantial contribution to curbing CO2 emissions from long-haul transportation by reducing the aerodynamic drag, rolling resistance and weight of the tractor-trailer combination. Europe would not be the first region in the world to introduce CO2 standards for trailers: The United States, Canada, and California have all adopted trailer standards. 

Regulating trailer efficiency requires a thorough understanding of the trailer market, as well as a solid methodology to measure the CO2 impact of trailer technologies. Today, we are releasing two studies on these topics in order to expedite the establishment of a trailer CO2 standard in the EU.

The first study explores the market of new trailers in the European Union, with a strong focus on semi-trailers. In 2016, about 190 thousand semi-trailers were sold in the European Union, with Germany being the largest sales market with an 18% share and is by far the largest trailer manufacturer with 54% of total production in 2016. 

As shown in the figure below, the five market leaders represented nearly 60% of trailer production in the EU in 2016 and adding the five next largest manufacturers pushes that figure to almost 70%. The market share of the 10 largest trailer makers in the EU has also grown considerably since 2009. So, even though close to a hundred trailer manufacturers are present in the EU, the market is dominated by a couple of big fishes.

EU trailer production marketshare

The second study delves in to the details on how one would go about certifying the CO2 emissions of something that does not emit CO2. While this sounds like a daunting task, thanks to the Commission’s work and its successful cooperation with industry and other stakeholders, there is already a robust methodology for doing so. The current procedure used for certifying the CO2 emissions of trucks can be extrapolated to include trailers. To minimize the certification burden on trailer manufacturers, it is desirable to simplify the regulatory design as much as possible. Our analysis shows that these simplifications are possible without compromising the accuracy of the certification process.

The inclusion of trailers in the ongoing regulatory measures to curb CO2 emissions from on-road freight movement is a necessary step.  Trailer technologies—aerodynamics, low rolling-resistance tires, and light-weighting—can account for fuel-consumption reductions of as much as 12%. A well-designed trailer CO2 standard can be a very successful tool for overcoming the prevailing market barriers that hinder the development and deployment of these trailer technologies. No other policy alternative can rival it in effectiveness.