Truckers’ Well being & the Rise of Zero-Emission Vans

The trucking trade is the spine of the worldwide financial system, as corporations ship merchandise throughout huge distances for our comfort. In 2021, 72 % of products in America had been shipped by vans, highlighting the financial significance of the trucking trade and its drivers. Nevertheless, the diesel vans that energy this trade come at a big value, emitting dangerous emissions that pose severe threats to public well being and the setting. Truck drivers bear the brunt of this air pollution since they encounter dangerous diesel exhaust fumes as an everyday a part of their every day work routine. Transitioning to zero-emission vans not solely has the potential to enhance truck drivers’ well being but additionally provides a path towards a extra sustainable future.

Dangerous results of diesel emissions

Diesel emissions launch dangerous pollution like nitrogen oxide (NOx) and particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5) into the environment. NOx belongs to a gaggle of reactive gases produced throughout actions equivalent to fossil gasoline combustion and industrial processes. PM2.5, generally often called soot, is one other dangerous part present in diesel exhaust and is related to respiratory points. PM2.5 varieties a posh aerosol system primarily related to black smoke from diesel engines, and its ultrafine measurement of lower than 2.5 microns permits it to simply enter the lungs, inflicting respiratory points. Common publicity to PM2.5 has been linked to varied respiratory ailments, making it a big concern for truck drivers, who’re regularly uncovered to diesel exhaust. PM2.5 also can irritate the nostril, throat, lungs, and eyes, resulting in cardiovascular sickness and untimely dying. Regardless of solely representing 6 % of the on-road fleet, heavy-duty vans generated 59 % of ozone- and particle-forming NOx emissions, 55 % of particle air pollution, and 26 % of transportation-based greenhouse fuel emissions in 2020, based on analysis by the American Lung Affiliation.

In-cabin air pollution: An ignored menace

In-cabin air pollution poses one of the crucial vital every day exposures to air pollution for drivers. Over time, truck cabins can accumulate unhealthy ranges of PM2.5 and NOx emissions. The cabin serves as a hotbox for pollution, resulting in drivers inhaling these fumes every day. In-cabin air pollution can have detrimental results on drivers who spend lengthy hours of their vans, resulting in respiratory points, equivalent to bronchial asthma and respiratory infections, whereas additionally contributing to cardiovascular issues. In accordance with the American Most cancers Society, employees with the heaviest and most extended exposures to diesel emissions—equivalent to railroad employees, heavy-equipment operators, miners, and truck drivers—have been discovered to have larger lung most cancers dying charges than unexposed employees.

Who’s in danger and what are the impacts on well being?

There are about 3.5 million truck drivers in the US, based on the American Trucking Affiliation. Because of the nature of their jobs—lengthy hours, little relaxation, lack of wholesome meals choices—truck drivers are extra in danger for bronchial asthma, coronary heart illness, and weight problems. This, paired with the truth that the typical age of a truck driver is 46 years outdated, signifies that in-cabin diesel emissions straight enhance the danger of extreme, damaging well being outcomes. Medical analysis signifies that truck drivers repeatedly uncovered to diesel exhaust face an elevated threat of lung most cancers. The Worldwide Company for Analysis on Most cancers classifies diesel exhaust as a Group 1 human carcinogen, that means there may be enough proof linking it to an elevated threat of lung most cancers. Publicity to diesel particulate matter (DPM) also can result in respiratory signs, decreased lung operate, and hospitalizations for coronary heart and lung ailments, together with bronchial asthma.

A 2018 examine on occupational well being disparities amongst long-haul truck drivers in the US revealed vital variations in well being dangers in comparison with different pattern teams. The analysis highlights that the long-haul truck driver group had larger imply scores for each heart problems and metabolic illness threat. Moreover, truck drivers exhibited elevated ranges of physique mass index (BMI) and hypertension. Particularly, 43.9 % of truck drivers had a BMI considerably above the imply of the examine’s pattern, and this pattern was constant. Moreover, 30 % of truckers noticed within the examine had larger systolic blood strain, and 50 % had elevated diastolic blood strain. These findings underscore the well being disparities and elevated threat components for cardiovascular and metabolic ailments throughout the truck driver occupation.

Moreover, truck drivers are much less prone to have medical insurance protection in comparison with different employees (with 15 % being uninsured versus 10 % for all employees), which provides to their vulnerability. The well being disparities and elevated well being dangers noticed amongst long-haul truck drivers with out medical insurance can lead to delayed remedy, monetary hardships, decreased job efficiency, and potential long-term well being issues.

The advantages of embracing zero-emission vans

Whereas some truck drivers could have considerations about laws that search to transition fleets towards zero-emission automobiles (ZEV), advocating for ZEV requirements can deliver quite a few advantages, notably in enhancing well being outcomes and work environments. Transitioning to zero-emission vans provides the next benefits:

  1. Public well being: The transition to zero-emission vans will safe a big selection of public well being advantages, together with stopping 66,800 untimely deaths, 8.5 million misplaced workdays, and 1.75 million bronchial asthma assaults over the subsequent 30 years.
  2. Lowered air air pollution: ZEVs considerably lower NOx and PM2.5 emissions, enhancing air high quality and decreasing the danger of respiratory ailments. Research have proven that communities with excessive publicity to DPM have a larger threat of bronchial asthma.
  3. Decrease noise ranges: Zero-emission vans produce much less noise air pollution, resulting in improved psychological well-being and focus whereas decreasing the well being points related to extreme noise publicity. Noise air pollution can result in drivers affected by listening to loss, dizziness, complications, hypertension, and nervousness. A examine performed in 2015 discovered that site visitors noise was related to cardiovascular defects in all adults and the aged, and revealed that long-term publicity to noise from highway site visitors can enhance the danger of dying.
  4. Decrease upkeep prices: Zero-emission vans usually have decrease upkeep prices than their diesel counterparts. Electrical vans have a less complicated energy prepare with fewer shifting components and don’t require varied fluids like engine oil, coolant, or transmission fluid, which eliminates the necessity for fluid adjustments and reduces the chance of leaks. Moreover, electrical vans usually function regenerative braking, which helps cut back put on and tear, extending a car’s life span and decreasing brake system upkeep wants. Lastly, electrical vans usually make the most of superior sensors and information analytics to watch the situations of elements, which permits for proactive upkeep by figuring out points earlier than they turn into essential, decreasing downtime and upkeep prices. These components contribute to zero-emission vans having decrease whole value of possession in comparison with their diesel counterparts, however extra have to be achieved to deliver up-front prices down.
  5. Improved work setting: Many zero-emission vans are designed with driver consolation in thoughts. They’ll function ergonomic seating, superior local weather management programs, and enhanced noise insulation. These options contribute to a extra comfy and pleasant driving expertise, decreasing fatigue and selling driver well-being. Electrical vans sometimes have smoother acceleration, thereby offering a extra steady driving expertise and decreasing the bodily pressure on drivers’ our bodies from the extreme vibrations attributable to conventional diesel vans. Lastly, zero-emission vans’ quiet operation and improved in-cabin air high quality create a conductive setting for restful sleep throughout relaxation breaks or in a single day stops. Improved sleep high quality results in extra alert and centered drivers, enhancing security on the highway.


Zero-emission vans maintain immense potential for decreasing dangerous emissions and enhancing the well being and well-being of thousands and thousands of individuals. One largely ignored group of beneficiaries is truck drivers. Advocating for ZEV requirements is essential to speed up the transition to cleaner transportation, guaranteeing a more healthy setting for truck drivers and the communities they serve. By embracing zero-emission vans, the trucking trade and truck drivers can construct a more healthy and extra comfy work setting, finally boosting job satisfaction, productiveness, and total well-being.

By Guillermo Ortiz, This weblog was written by Noelia Agramont, NRDC 2023 summer season intern. Assist for this internship program is supplied by the U.C. Merced Division of Fairness, Justice, and Inclusive Excellence.

 Courtesy of NRDC (Pure Assets Protection Council).


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