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Every day, diesel trucks chug along highways between ports, warehouses, factories, and retailers — spewing tailpipe exhaust as they go. 

Breathing these fumes is dangerous. Truck exhaust contains pollutants that have been associated with asthma, lung disease, heart problems, and cancer.

Regan Patterson is a transportation equity research fellow at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. She says minority communities often bear the worst of the pollution from diesel trucks.

“This really has to do with discriminatory planning processes in which communities of color and low-income communities are often located near ports, major roadways and distribution centers, and so therefore are disproportionately exposed to diesel exhaust,” she says.

Transitioning to electric trucks could help, because electric trucks do not emit harmful tailpipe pollution.

So Patterson says heavy-duty vehicles should be top-of-mind for policymakers as they plan investments in clean transportation: “Really saying, how do we prioritize communities that are disproportionately exposed to diesel trucks?”

In that way, the transportation of the future could help alleviate some of the inequities of the past.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media and Diana Madson