A Greener Future For The Garden State? The Role of Natural Gas Vehicles

All New Jerseyans have a stake in decisions made today about your State’s transportation/energy future! Will it be a healthy one for your families and children? Will it give your communities the greatest energy security? As millions of your tax dollars are spent, will they be invested most productively?

Many decisions will determine the State’s course – from mass transit and land use planning to electric car and smart grid development to bicycle lanes. This factsheet addresses one of the most significant areas: what to do about the diesel bus and truck fleets operating in your communities – the heaviest polluters and fuel users in the State. It describes the issues, the choices and how you – as a citizen, government or business official, solid waste industry executive or student – can be part of the solution!


2.8% of total U.S.
Average people per sq. mile1,134.5
Densest in US– Av. Total 79.6[i]
Total autos*3,784,092
Total trucks2,396,600
Registered in NJ[ii]
Total busses23,287
Registered in NJ
Total vehicles registered6,246,882

*Includes Federal, State, county, municipal as well as private and commercial vehicles.

Note: The heavy duty vehicles are a small fraction of the total trucks and buses, probably under 115,000.


New Jersey’s 6,203,979 vehicles are a major source of the State’s health–threatening air pollution. Though all of these vehicles pose environmental and health risks, trucks and buses that run on diesel fuel are of greatest concern.

Diesel bus and truck fleets are the backbone of NJ’s economy. Truck fleets deliver products and collect wastes and recyclables. Buses transport people around town and to airports. New Jersey had 18,000 school buses transporting over 800,000 school children in 2009[iii]. These services are indispensible to the functioning of every community. Yet, their emissions exact a significant health toll – especially from soot particles, toxic chemicals and nitrogen oxides that are released when diesel fuel is burned.

The 4,000 to 6,000 refuse and recycling trucks pose exceptional risks since they travel down every residential street, stopping and starting, compacting their loads and releasing their pollutants at every doorstep.

In urban areas, the NJ Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) calculated that airborne soot and toxins from diesel contribute up to 70% of cancer risk.

Smog over Newark, NJ

Smog over Newark, NJ

Registered in–state vehicles are not the only concern. The tens of thousands of commuters and long distance "18 wheelers" traveling through NJ on Interstate I–95 and other major highways contribute to the pollution burden. Nearly 500,000 New Jerseyans live just a football field’s length away from major highways with their dense soot concentrations[iv].


Number of NJ children with asthma218,914
(10% of NJ children)
Number of NJ adults with asthma516,008
(8% of NJ adults)[v]
1998 medical cost of asthma in NJ$324 million[vi]

A key impact of soot particles is on respiratory health. They are clearly linked to asthma attacks, exasperating the health of those who already have the illness as well as those with allergies[vii]. According to the State’s Asthma Strategic Plan, low income and minority groups have higher rates of asthma, with black residents being three times as likely as white residents to be hospitalized for asthma in 2006[viii]

NJ truckers and dockworkers are also inordinately affected by diesel emissions. A 2007 report by Harvard and UC Berkeley found that those who operated or worked with diesel engines had a higher rate of premature death and disease than those who did not and that truckers were 50% more likely to die prematurely of heart disease than the general population[ix].