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California to end sale of heavy duty diesel trucks by 2036

 May 1, 2023

California air regulators have approved a rule to phase out the sale of fossil fuel-powered medium- and heavy-duty trucks by 2036 as part of the state's ongoing efforts to combat climate change and transition away from fossil fuels.

However, the rule still requires federal approval for enforcement and mandates that fleet owners' trucks be electric or otherwise zero-emission by 2042.

Stricter Transition Limits for Fleets

The rule imposes stricter transition limits for certain fleets. Big rigs, local delivery trucks, and government fleets must go pollution-free by 2035, while garbage trucks and local buses have until 2039 to achieve zero-emission status.

California's Ambitious Emissions Standards

California continues to pursue ambitious emissions standards as part of its broader goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2045.

Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) praised the rule, saying that California is "once again showing the world what real climate action looks like" and moving closer to "achieving healthier neighborhoods and cleaner air for all Californians."

Potential Adoption by Other States

Yasmine Agelidis, a senior associate attorney at Earthjustice, expressed optimism that other states would be "eager to hop on board," as other states have adopted California's vehicle regulations in the past.

Trucking Industry Resistance

However, the trucking industry has pushed back on the rule, arguing that it is unrealistic. American Trucking Association’s (ATA) President and CEO Chris Spear criticized the decision, claiming that zero-emission trucks are significantly more expensive, charging and refueling infrastructure is nonexistent and that more trucks will be needed on California roads to move the same amount of freight.

He accused California of setting unrealistic targets and unachievable timelines.

In a statement, Spear said, "California is setting unrealistic targets and unachievable timelines that will undoubtedly lead to higher prices for the goods and services delivered to the state and fewer options for consumers. As it becomes clear that California's rhetoric is not being matched by technology, we hope the Board will reverse course and allow trucking companies the freedom to choose the clean technologies that work best for their operations."

He added, "ATA-member companies work tirelessly to deliver the nation's freight while deploying the cleanest technologies available. Over the past 35 years, those efforts have produced a 98% reduction in truck emissions. We continue to say 'Yes' to advancing cleaner technologies, but achievable targets and realistic timelines matter."

Biden Administration Supports Electric Trucks

The Biden administration recently approved a separate California rule requiring increasing percentages of trucks sold in the state to be electric between 2024 and 2035.

Cleaner Air and Healthier Neighborhoods

The rule aims to provide Californians with cleaner air and healthier neighborhoods by reducing emissions from medium- and heavy-duty trucks, combating climate change, and improving public health, particularly in areas most affected by air pollution from transportation.

Potential Economic Impacts

The trucking industry's concerns about increased costs, limited infrastructure, and the need for more trucks to transport the same amount of freight could negatively affect the economy.

Higher prices for goods and services might result from the implementation of this rule, potentially causing a strain on consumers and businesses alike.

Infrastructure Challenges

To successfully transition to electric or zero-emission trucks, the state will need to invest heavily in infrastructure development to support the growing number of electric vehicles.

Looking Ahead

As the rule awaits federal approval for enforcement, the debate between the trucking industry and environmental advocates will likely continue. It remains to be seen how this rule will impact California's economy, infrastructure, public health, and whether other states will adopt similar regulations.

Balancing Environmental Action and Social Concerns

Critics argue that while Governor Newsom is actively pursuing environmental goals and climate mitigation efforts in California, more attention should be given to other pressing issues in the state, such as rising crime rates, increasing cost of living, and growing homelessness. Balancing the need for environmental action by addressing these social concerns remains a challenge for the state government.