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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Heavier Alternative Fuel Trucks Are Not Expected to Cause Significant Additional Pavement Damage

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Medium- and heavy-duty trucks on California’s roads are shifting from conventional gasoline and diesel propulsion systems to alternative fuel (natural gas, electric, and fuel cell) propulsion technologies, spurred by the state’s greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goals. While these alternative fuel trucks produce fewer emissions, they are also currently heavier than their conventional counterparts. Heavier loads can cause more damage to pavements and bridges, triggering concerns that clean truck technologies could actually increase GHG emissions by necessitating either construction of stronger pavements or more maintenance to keep pavements functional. California Assembly Bill 2061 (2018) allows a 2,000-pound gross vehicle weight limit increase for near-zero-emission vehicles and zero-emission vehicles to enable these trucks to carry the same loads as their conventional counterparts. The law also asked the UC Institute of Transportation Studies to evaluate the new law’s implications for GHG emissions and transportation infrastructure damage. To conduct this analysis, researchers at UC Davis considered three adoption scenarios of alternative fuel trucks in two timeframes, 2030 and 2050 (Figure 1). Based on these scenarios, the researchers used life cycle assessment and life cycle cost analysis to evaluate how heavier trucks might affect pavement and bridge deterioration, GHG emissions, and state and local government pavement costs. The study did not evaluate the safety implications of increasing allowable gross vehicle weights.

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