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Top truck makers reach ‘unachievable’ deal to phase out diesel trucks by 2036

Several of the world’s largest heavy truck manufacturers have agreed to accept California’s recently announced ban of traditional diesel-powered trucks by 2036, a deadline that opponents within the industry call unrealistic and unachievable.

The deal paves the way toward one national standard for truck emission rules. The agreement includes Daimler, Ford, General Motors, and their trade association, the Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association (TEMA).

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has been pushing the nation’s toughest new diesel truck standards. He hailed the agreement as a major step toward reducing emissions in the Golden State and elsewhere while reducing pollutants that are contributing to global warming.

“California has shown the world what real climate action looks like, and we are raising the bar yet again,” Newsom said in a statement. “Truck manufacturers join our urgent efforts to slash air pollution, showing the rest of the country that we can both cut dangerous pollution and build the economy of the future.”

Traditional diesel-powered trucks are a major source of air pollution nationwide. But they particularly affect residents near ports, warehouses and other facilities. Heavy-duty trucks in California are estimated to cause nearly a third of nitrogen oxide pollution and more than a quarter of fine particle pollution in the state, according to the California Air Resources Board (CARB).

Eight states have adopted the California plan, accounting for about 25 percent of the American truck market. It’s always been a goal of the trucking industry to have one standard for the entire country, rather than a patchwork of state and local pollution standards.

The American Trucking Associations (ATA) took a cautious tone in reaction to the announcement by CARB, which had been backing the more stringent standards. ATA said it didn’t want to be “strong-armed by the government” into accepting new rules.

“We’ve long advocated for a single, national standard that respects and preserves interstate commerce,” ATA President and CEO Chris Spear said in a statement. “However, the trucking industry shouldn’t be strong armed by the government into an agreement with such terms.”

Spear said his association represents motor carrier members – the paying customers who will inherit the costs of this agreement – and “will not roll over nor relinquish our right to litigate” with any party when its interests are threatened.

“It is clear that America has lost its way when the government bullies the private sector to succumb to unachievable timelines, targets and technologies,” Spear added.

An alliance of trucking transportation stakeholders committed to a clean energy future for America’s trucking industry also called the California standards “unachievable” and said it could jeopardize the nation’s supply chains.

The Clean Freight Coalition (CFC) says it is a group of associations that include motor carriers of every size and sector, truck dealers, truckstop operators and equipment manufacturers.

“The CFC and its members are committed to the sustainable and affordable transition to zero-emission trucks,” CFC Executive Director Jim Mullen said in a statement.

“However, the unachievable standards and timelines set forth by California regulators jeopardize the entire supply chain and risk truck dealers having limited compliant products to sell and fleets holding onto their older trucks longer,” Mullen added.

The CFC is openly questioning the benefits of the new agreement.

Policymakers could make an immediate impact on truck emissions by providing incentives for motor carriers to refresh their fleets with newer, more environmentally friendly trucks, the coalition said. Buying newer, cheaper trucks would have an impact on clean emissions, CFC indicated.

“For instance, eliminating the Federal Excise Tax on heavy trucks would provide immediate benefit by reducing emissions while improving roadway safety with trucks equipped with the latest technologies,” Mullen said.

“A patchwork of state regulations disrupts the trucking industry and our nation’s supply chain,” Mullen said before adding the CFC will continue to advocate for a sustainable and affordable transition to a zero-emission future which protects the supply chain and “does not pass the financial burden onto the hundreds of millions of American households and business consumers who depend on goods shipped by trucks.”

The proposed rules are not totally anti-industry. As part of the deal, California  will allow some of the less stringent federal rules adopted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). These include rules that make it easier to comply at slightly lower pollution levels.

“Automakers (and truck manufacturers) need harmonization between programs to help meet our shared goal of lowering emissions,” Cynthia Williams, global director of sustainability at Ford, said in a statement to the Washington Post. “That will help us get more clean trucks on the road across the country.”

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