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California to ban sales of new diesel trucks by 2036

California to ban sales of new diesel trucks by 2036
Photo courtesy of California Air Resources Board

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has approved the first-of-its-kind rule that requires a phased-in transition toward zero-emission medium-and-heavy duty vehicles. 

The new rule, known as the Advanced Clean Fleets, forms part of a plan to transition the trucks that travel across the most populous state in the United States to zero-emissions technology by 2045 and includes an end to combustion truck sales in 2036.

An analysis of the sales and purchase requirements estimates that about 1.7 million zero-emission trucks will hit California roads by 2050, according to CARB. CARB is the lead agency for climate change programs and oversees all air pollution control efforts in California.

CARB said fleet owners will save an estimated USD48 billion in total operating costs from the transition through 2050 and generate USD26.6 billion in health savings from reduced asthma attacks, emergency room visits and respiratory illnesses. 

Trucks represent 6% of the vehicles on California’s roads, but account for more than 35% of the state’s transportation-generated nitrogen oxide emissions (Nox) and a quarter of the state’s on-road greenhouse gas emissions, according to CARB.

California is set to invest almost USD3 billion between 2021 and 2025 in zero-emission trucks and infrastructure. This investment is a part of an USD9 billion multi-year, multi-agency zero-emissions vehicle package to equitably decarbonise the transportation sector that was agreed upon by California Governor Gavin Newsom and the California Legislature in 2021. 

“We have the technology available to start working toward a zero-emission future now,” said CARB Chair Liane Randolph. “The Advanced Clean Fleets rule is a reasonable and innovative approach to clean up the vehicles on our roads and ensure that Californians have the clean air that they want and deserve. At the same time, this rule provides manufacturers, truck owners and fueling providers the assurance that there will be a market and the demand for zero-emissions vehicles, while providing a flexible path to making the transition toward clean air.” 

California communities that sit near trucking corridors and warehouse locations with heavy truck traffic have some of the worst air in the nation, according to CARB.

“California continues to lead by example with first-of-its-kind standards to slash air pollution and toxics from heavy-duty trucks,” said California’s Secretary for Environmental Protection Yana Garcia. “Where you live, work, or go to school should not determine the quality of the air you breathe. The Advanced Clean Fleets rule brings California one step closer to addressing historic inequities that have placed some communities at the epicenter of environmental pollution and the resulting health consequences, while accelerating our transition to a zero-emission future.” 

Under the new rule, fleet owners operating vehicles for private services such as last-mile delivery and federal fleets such as the Postal Service, along with state and local government fleets, will begin their transition toward zero-emission vehicles starting in 2024. 

The rule includes the ability to continue operating existing vehicles through their useful life. Due to the impact that truck traffic has on residents living near heavily trafficked corridors, drayage trucks will need to be zero-emissions by 2035. Drayage trucks are generally diesel-fueled, heavy-duty (Class 8) trucks that transport containers and bulk freight between the port and intermodal rail facilities, distribution centers, and other near-port locations.

All other fleet owners will have the option to transition a percentage of their vehicles to meet expected zero-emission milestones, which gives owners the flexibility to continue operating combustion-powered vehicles as needed during the move toward cleaner technology.

The flexibility is intended to take into consideration the available technology and the need to target the highest-polluting vehicles. For example, last-mile delivery and yard trucks must transition by 2035, work trucks and day cab tractors must be zero-emission by 2039, and sleeper cab tractors and specialty vehicles must be zero-emission by 2042. 

The rule also allows fleet owners to receive exemptions based on available technology to make sure fleet owners continue to replace their older polluting trucks with ones that have the cleanest engines in the United States. There are already about 150 existing medium- and heavy-duty zero-emission trucks that are commercially available in the U.S. today.