The American Trucking Associations (ATA) expressed what it called its “grave concerns” about media reports that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) may be on the verge of granting the state of California waivers to implement potentially harmful and unrealistic emissions rules on the industry.
Under California rules, new Class 8 heavy truck models would be zero-emission next year. Diesel and gasoline-powered drayage trucks must retire after 18 years to guarantee that they meet a zero-emission requirement by 2035.
In addition, under the California proposals issued by that state’s Air Resources Board, half of all new trucks purchased by state and local governments would be zero-emission in 2024, increasing to 100% by 2027.
Word inside the Beltway is that the EPA may grant tougher waivers to California. What truckers fear is that this could lead to a “patchwork” of unwieldy rules that vary greatly from state to state, thereby prohibiting efficient interstate commerce.
“Our industry hopes these reports aren’t true,” ATA President and CEO Chris Spear said in a statement. “We have worked tirelessly with EPA on aggressive, achievable timelines for emissions reductions over decades.”
In fact, Spear said, a heavy truck in 1988 emitted as much as 60 trucks today—a more than 98% reduction. But trucking interests say even that drastic improvement can be made better.
“We’re committed to the path to zero,” ATA’s Spear said.
California-based transportation and logistics officials said while the regulations are well-meaning, there is the question of timing.
“California makes it harder for interstate truckers to operate in that state,” Rock Magnan, president of RK Logistics, a 3PL based in Los Gatos, Calif., told LM. “They want all-electric trucks by 2035. That’s a great goal, but the regulations get ahead of reality. When you set standards that can’t be met, that’s a problem.”
In another first, California has proposed requiring new trucks to be zero-emissions in 2040. Large companies would gradually convert fleets. Truckers worry about the costs and practicality of electric trucks.
Under the proposal by the California air quality board, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) couldn’t sell new medium-duty and heavy-duty trucks fueled by diesel or gasoline that operate in California. Rather they would have to turn to manufacturing electric models.
Large trucking companies would have to gradually convert their existing fleets to zero-emission vehicles. All would be required to be zero emission truckss by 2042.
California also is aiming to curb use of fossil fuels by setting requirements for clean-burning big rigs, garbage trucks, delivery trucks, and other large vehicles. Transportation is considered California’s largest contributor to climate-warming greenhouse gases, as well as smog and other pollutants.
Trucking interests worry that the high cost of such trucks, lack of sufficient charging stations, and the limited range of these electric vehicles could cause serious operational worries for the industry.
“We’re flying blind into some pretty major questions about the practicality of actually implementing this rule,” one California trucking official said.
Other trucking interests worry about a hodgepodge of state regulations interfering with interstate commerce covering the $830 billion U.S. trucking industry.
“If the reports are in fact accurate, let us remind you that this isn't the United States of California,” ATA’s Spear said.
As the nation learned in the COVID pandemic, Spear said the supply chain can be a fragile thing – and its integrity must be preserved at the national level.
“This decision has little to do with improving the environment, and everything to do with placating the far left of the environmental lobby without regard for the hard-working men and women of our industry or our country who will be left to implement California’s vision for America,” Spear added.
“The state and federal regulators collaborating on this unrealistic patchwork of regulations have no grasp on the real costs of designing, building, manufacturing and operating the trucks that deliver their groceries, clothes and goods, but they will certainly feel the pain when these fanciful projections lead to catastrophic disruptions well beyond California’s borders,” he said.