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by Lindsay Steves
Lindsay Steves

7 min read

Breaking Down California’s Advanced Clean Trucks And Advanced Clean Fleets Rules

December 19, 2023

Lindsay Steves
by Lindsay Steves


Note: On December 28, 2023, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) decided to postpone the enforcement of the Advanced Clean Fleets regulation for drayage or high-priority fleets until it obtained a waiver from the EPA. This regulation was originally scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2024.

California has consistently been at the forefront of developing and implementing ambitious sustainability measures. Through the Clean Air Act, California can independently establish and enforce vehicle emission regulations that surpass federal standards, subject to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approval. This capability has played a crucial role in California's recent implementation of two emissions standards rules: the Advanced Clean Trucks and Advanced Clean Fleets.

The Advanced Clean Trucks and Advanced Clean Fleets rules effectively target both the supply and demand of zero-emission heavy-duty vehicles. Their significance extends beyond California's borders, as other states have considered the adoption of one or both rules. However, legal challenges have emerged because of the anticipated impacts of these regulations, even before they come into effect in 2024.

California’s Advanced Clean Trucks Regulations

On March 31, 2023, the EPA granted California’s waiver request to implement stronger clean truck regulations, thereby requiring that 75% of all heavy-duty truck sales (Class 4–8) and 40% of Class 7–8 tractor sales in the state must be zero emissions by 2035. Other states that have adopted this rule include Washington State, Oregon, Colorado, New Mexico, New York, New Jersey, Vermont, and Massachusetts.  States that are considering adoption include North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Maine.

Stakeholders’ Reactions to Advanced Clean Trucks

The reactions from stakeholders to California’s Advanced Clean Trucks Regulation have been mixed. The American Trucking Association believes the regulations are “technologically infeasible,” and on “unworkable and unrealistic timelines,” and a wide-ranging coalition of transportation, commercial, and agricultural organizations wrote a letter outlining their concerns that the regulations “will be unworkable in the real world.” To add, the California Trucking Association expressed concerns that the regulations could lead to increased prices and lower commodity availability, and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Assocation (OOIDA) called the regulations onerous. On a local level, the League of California Cities, California State Association of Counties, and the California Special Districts Association stated concerns about local agency budget constraints and the swift timelines of the regulations. They requested a four-year delay in implementation or the creation of a grant program for local governments.

On the other hand, environmental NGOs, such as EarthJustice, NRDC, and the People’s Collective for Environmental Justice, praised the regulations and California’s leadership. Despite the varied reactions, it is clear that the regulations have generated differing opinions about their feasibility and impact on the transportation industry, underscoring the need for ongoing dialogue and collaboration between all stakeholders to ensure effective and sustainable solutions. It is for this reason that in June, the Western States Trucking Association filed a lawsuit against the EPA, arguing that the Agency exceeded its authority by granting waiver.

California’s Advanced Clean Fleets Regulations

On April 28, 2023, the California Air Resources Board passed the Advanced Clean Fleets rule, a powerful complement to the recently passed Advanced Clean Trucks rule. The Advanced Clean Fleets rule requires large carriers to overhaul their fleets by requiring drayage trucks to start transitioning to zero emission vehicles (ZEVs) beginning in 2024, with full implementation by 2035 (the timeline is 2039 for work trucks and day cab tractors and 2042 for sleeper cab tractors and specialty vehicles), if the ultimate purchaser is in CA. Furthermore, the rule would end diesel truck sales by 2036 to more aggressively spur the adoption of ZEV medium- and heavy-duty vehicles (the original proposal had a 2040 timeline for this provision).

Stakeholders’ Reactions to Advanced Clean Fleets

Like the mixed reactions to the Advanced Clean Trucks rule, the Advanced Clean Fleets rule is also under scrutiny. SoCalGas applauded the passage of the rule, mentioning its efforts to move towards alternative fuels, both through the adoption and development of the necessary infrastructure i.e., a hydrogen pipeline.

However, the American Trucking Association did not share the same sentiment, “Today, an unelected Board in California voted to force trucking companies to buy zero-emission trucks. Fleets are just beginning to understand what it takes to successfully operate these trucks, but what they have learned so far is they are significantly more expensive, charging and refueling infrastructure is nonexistent, and ZEVs are not necessarily a one-for-one replacement—meaning more trucks will be needed on California roads to move the same amount of freight. 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.”

California officials say that the transition to zero-emission trucks will generate $26.6 billion in health savings, and fleet owners will save an estimated $48 billion from the transition to electric vehicles. Yet, this is not enough value to convince pessimistic stakeholders. On October 16th, the California Trucking Association filed a lawsuit requesting both a preliminary and permanent injunction to stop the enforcement of the Advanced Clean Fleets rule. The Harbor Trucking Association has indicated its support for the lawsuit.

In addition to its lawsuit against EPA for the implementation of the Advanced Clean Trucks rule, the Western States Trucking Association has also filed a lawsuit against CARB for the Advanced Clean Fleets rule, stating that CARB did not consider the economic impacts or feasible alternatives.

Amidst these many lawsuits, in November California filed for a Clean Air Act waiver with the EPA to ensure it has sufficient standing to implement the Advanced Clean Fleets rule. CARB had consistently argued that it does not require a waiver for the Advanced Clean Fleets rule, but trucking companies and other stakeholders have disagreed.

The EPA rarely denies California a waiver under the Clean Air Act, and it is expected that the waiver request for Advanced Clean Fleets will follow the same pattern. If and when granted, this waiver will help undermine the various lawsuits.

The Future of California’s Advanced Clean Fleets & Advanced Clean Trucks Rules

While the feasibility of California's Advanced Clean Fleets regulation remains uncertain due to ongoing litigation and lack of support of an EPA waiver, the Advanced Clean Trucks regulation has already begun to exert its influence nationwide and it is unlikely that this momentum will be halted. Despite some stakeholders’ skepticism, the combination of these two rules has the potential to significantly reduce vehicle emissions and improve public health.

CARB has estimated that the Advanced Clean Fleets rule and Advanced Clean Trucks rule would result in 510,000 ZEVs (includes Class 2b-8 trucks) in California by 2035, 1.35 million by 2045, and 1.69 million by 2050. This would help California meet Governor Gavin Newsom’s goal of fully transitioning trucks to ZEVs by 2045.

In the face of this uncertainty, shippers need a reliable partner to keep pace with the ever-changing landscape. CleanMile is an end-to-end transportation emissions management solution you can trust. By bringing together transportation energy management and network strategy, you work toward your sustainability goals alongside our team of industry experts. Learn more about CleanMile today!

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