California’s Zero-Emission Rule

by Pride Transport | Aug 13, 2020


In June of 2020 California did a pretty remarkable thing. They adopted a landmark rule requiring more than half of all trucks sold in the state to be zero emissions by 2035.

Now having regulations dropped on them isn’t something new for truck drivers and 2020 is no exception to the regulation inundation. But knowing there are regulations coming doesn’t make them any easier to handle.



Why the new regulation

large white clouds in blue sky

The answer is air quality. California has some serious air quality problems and they take climate change to heart. Despite rollbacks of environmental protection rules, California is bucking the system and making an effort to clean up the air in the state and, maybe, lead the way for other states to follow.

Trucks and transport vehicles also called mobile sources, and the fossil fuels needed to run them are the largest contributors to the formation of ozone, greenhouse gas emissions, fine particulate matter (PM2.5), and toxic diesel matter.

These vehicles, trucks included, are responsible for about 80% of smog-forming nitrogen oxide emissions. They also represent about 50% of greenhouse gas emissions when including emissions from fuel production, and more than 95% of toxic diesel particulate matter emissions. 

On one freeway in the Inland Empire Region of Southern California, near the nation’s largest concentration of Amazon warehouses, a community group recently counted almost 1,200 delivery trucks passing in one hour. That’s a lot of emissions.

Zero-emission vehicles have no tailpipe emissions. When compared to diesel vehicles, they are two to five times more energy-efficient, reduce dependence on petroleum, and reduce GHG emissions substantially.


The advanced clean truck regulation 

It’s groundbreaking and it’s the first of its kind in the United States. If done right, it will be a huge improvement in air quality and give Californians a respite from those smog covered mornings. 

The Advanced Clean Truck Regulation is part of California’s holistic approach to accelerating a large-scale transition of zero-emission medium-and heavy-duty vehicles from Class 2b to Class 8. The proposal, which the State Board made a final decision on and approved in June 2020, has two components including a manufacturer sales requirement, and a reporting requirement:


Zero-emission truck sales: 

Manufacturers who certify Class 2b-8 chassis or complete vehicles with combustion engines would be required to sell zero-emission trucks as an increasing percentage of their annual California sales from 2024 to 2035. By 2035, zero-emission truck/chassis sales would need to be 55% of Class 2b – 3 truck sales, 75% of Class 4 – 8 straight truck sales, and 40% of truck tractor sales. 


Company and fleet reporting: 

Large employers including retailers, manufacturers, brokers, and others would be required to report information about shipments and shuttle services. Fleet owners, with 50 or more trucks, would be required to report about their existing fleet operations. This information would help identify future strategies to ensure that fleets purchase available zero-emission trucks and place them in service where suitable to meet their needs.


Target goals

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It’s a challenging mandate, no doubt. But, California seeks to reduce air pollutants for the purpose of protecting public health, and to do this they are working to meet state climate change targets. It’s a lofty goal and some of the targets include:

• Federal health-based ambient air quality standards (key dates in 2023 and 2031)

• 40% reduction in greenhouse gases (GHG) by 2030;

• 80% reduction in GHGs by 2050; and

• 50% reduction in petroleum use by 2030

For California to meet these goals it will require them to basically transform all sectors which include: stationary, industrial, residential, and transportation with significant contributions from public agencies, private businesses, and individuals. It’s an all hands on deck situation.
Two years ago, California set a target of reducing planet-warming gases by 40% by 2030, this in comparison to 1990 levels. The new rule sets sales for zero-emissions, electric versions of everything from big rigs to box trucks to delivery vans, starting in 2024.
Under the rule, the percentage of zero-emissions trucks that must be sold would gradually increase each year with an eventual goal that 100% of trucks be electric by 2045.

Not everyone is on board

Every industry isn’t all smiles and rainbows about the new rule. Oils companies, farming manufacturers as well as truck and engine manufacturers strongly oppose the rule. These industries claim the measure is unrealistic, expensive, and a clear example of regulatory overreach.
Before the rule was okayed by the State Board, Oil and trucking companies attempted a last-ditch effort to delay the adoption, saying companies were already suffering from the effects of COVID-19. Ther effort did not succeed.
Despite protestations from certain industries, it’s hard to ignore the fact that transportation makes up 40% of California’s greenhouse gas emissions and is a major contributor to nitrogen oxide and diesel particulate matter pollution. These types of pollution have been linked to health problems including respiratory conditions.

Remove diesel trucks

No one is proposing the removal of all trucks from all roads, that’s not what the rule is about. The rule seeks to reduce diesel engines and replace them with cleaner, more efficient electric engines.
Californian estimates that removing diesel engines from the roads would eliminate 60,000 tons of nitrogen oxide. This could feasibly prevent more than 900 premature deaths and deliver at least $9 billion in public health benefits.
It also estimates that the rule will lower the state carbon dioxide emissions by 17 million metric tons.


Improve life

friends dancing on beach at sunset

The purpose of this new rule is clear, as clear as the air should be for people to live healthy lives. Reaching the goals that have been established is not going to be easy and some industries are going to feel the heat more than others. However, we all know that the future of our planet, what we leave behind for those who will come after us, is important. It’s also important to keep us all healthy right now.
California is out in front of this, however, 12 other states including Washington D.C. are following California’s lead and adopting stricter fuel emissions standards than the federal government requires.
Change is in the air. Change is never easy and truck drivers are going to feel the bite but, having change in the air is admittedly better than having harmful, even deadly gases in the air.

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