TRUE publication

Air quality and health impacts of diesel truck emissions in New York City and policy implications

Clean air
Remote sensing

The Real Urban Emissions (TRUE) Initiative analyzed the emissions and related health impacts of diesel truck emissions in New York City. The study uses real-world emissions measurements from the TRUE U.S. database and New York City traffic activity data to model nitrogen oxide (NOx) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5) emissions to determine areas of inequitable exposure to air pollution from diesel trucks.

Key findings of the analysis and policy recommendations include:

  • Older diesel trucks are responsible for a large share of total emissions from heavy-duty vehicles and resulting premature mortalities. Pre- 2007 engine model year (MY) trucks make up 6%–10% of the fleet but contribute 64%–83% of diesel truck tailpipe PM2.5 emissions. Replacing an older, pre-2010 engine MY truck with a new diesel truck can reduce health impacts by 81% to 96%. Given the significant damages associated with these older vehicles, it is important to take an active approach in reducing their share of the fleet as opposed to waiting for natural fleet turnover.
  • People of color living in the city are exposed to 5% more PM2.5 from diesel trucks than average, while non-Latino white residents are exposed to 10% less than average. Policies such as emissions-based access restrictions with targets for fully zero-emission operation can be focused on the environmental justice areas currently experiencing the largest health burdens to reduce this racial disparity.
  • Even new diesel trucks have a non-negligible health impact, particularly when considering vehicles with malfunctioning emission control systems. While combustion engines remain in the fleet, implementing updated inspection and maintenance methods would help to properly identify individual high emitting vehicles.
  • An accelerated transition to zero-emission alternatives is essential to ensure a continued decline in diesel truck emissions and to meet climate goals. Implementing zero-emission zones and supporting fleet owners in the transition to zero-emission freight options through increased rebates and improved infrastructure for zero-emission last-mile delivery would help New York City shift to a cleaner, more sustainable freight network.

Fact sheet: Exposure to air pollution from diesel trucks in New York City