Truck Manufacturers Embrace California Regulations Phasing Out Gas-Powered Vehicles

11 July 2023 by

Leading truck manufacturers have made a commitment to cease the sale of new gas-powered vehicles in California by the mid-2030s. This pledge is part of an agreement with state regulators aimed at averting potential lawsuits that could impede or obstruct the state’s emission standards.

California has been actively pursuing the elimination of fossil fuels and has implemented new regulations in recent years to phase out gas-powered cars, trucks, trains, and lawn equipment in the country’s most populous state.

While it will take several years for these regulations to come into full effect, certain industries have begun to resist the changes. Last month, the railroad industry filed a lawsuit against the California Air Resources Board in an attempt to block new rules that would ban older locomotives and require companies to adopt zero-emission equipment.

With the recent announcement, the likelihood of lawsuits delaying similar rules for the trucking industry has diminished. The participating companies have agreed to adhere to California’s regulations, which include a ban on the sale of new gas-powered trucks by 2036. In the meantime, California regulators have agreed to relax some of their emission standards for diesel trucks. Starting in 2027, the state will align with the federal emission standard, which is less stringent than the initially proposed California rules.

Additionally, California regulators have allowed these companies to continue selling older diesel engines over the next three years, but only if they also sell zero-emission vehicles to offset the emissions generated by those older trucks.

This agreement paves the way for other states to adopt the same standards as California without concern about potential legal challenges, as stated by Steven Cliff, executive officer of the California Air Resources Board. Consequently, more trucks nationwide will adhere to these rules. Cliff highlighted that approximately 60% of truck vehicle miles traveled in California are attributed to trucks arriving from other states.

“I believe this sets the foundation for a national framework for zero-emission trucks,” said Cliff. “It’s a highly stringent rule limited to California or a slightly less stringent rule nationwide. Either way, we achieve progress on a national scale.”

The agreement involves some of the world’s largest truck manufacturers, including Cummins Inc., Daimler Truck North America, Ford Motor Company, General Motors Company, Hino Motors Limited Inc, Isuzu Technical Center of America Inc., Navistar Inc, Paccar Inc., Stellantis NV, and Volvo Group North America. The Truck and Engine Manufacturing Association is also part of this commitment.

Michael Noonan, director of product certification and compliance for Navistar, expressed his support, stating, “This agreement provides the regulatory certainty we all need to prepare for a future that will incorporate increasingly higher volumes of low and zero-emissions technologies.”

Heavy-duty trucks such as big rigs and buses predominantly use diesel engines, which are more powerful than gasoline engines but also produce significantly more pollution. California has a considerable number of these trucks that transport freight to and from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, two of the busiest ports globally.

Although these trucks constitute only 3% of vehicles on the road, they account for over half of nitrogen oxides and fine particle diesel pollution, according to the California Air Resources Board. This has had a profound impact on California cities. Six out of the top ten most ozone-polluted cities in the U.S. are located in California, according to the American Lung Association.

Mariela Ruacho, clean air advocacy manager for the American Lung Association, hailed the agreement as “excellent news” that demonstrates California’s leadership in achieving cleaner air. However, Ruacho expressed the need for an analysis of how the agreement will affect estimates of health benefits for Californians. The regulations adopted in April included an estimated $26.6 billion in healthcare savings resulting from a reduction in asthma attacks, emergency room visits, and other respiratory illnesses.

“We are eager to see an analysis of any potential emission loss and how it will impact the health benefits,” she said.

Cliff confirmed that regulators are actively working on updating these health estimates. He emphasized that the current estimates were based on the ban on the sale of new gas-powered trucks by 2036, a rule that remains in effect.

“We are reaping all the benefits that would have been achieved,” he asserted. “We are essentially securing those benefits.”

California has previously reached similar agreements. In 2019, four major automakers committed to stricter standards for gas mileage and greenhouse gas emissions.

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