California’s Advanced Clean Trucks (ACT) rule, which goes hand in hand with its Advanced Clean Fleets (ACF) rule as part of a push to lower emissions from the state’s trucking sector, has been granted an expected waiver from the Environmental Protection Agency.
The ACT was already further along the approval process than the ACF. ACT mandates numbers of zero-emission vehicles that OEMs must sell into the state as a percentage of their total fleet. ACF sets rules that mandate the percentage of ZEVs that California fleets must have in their network.
ACT and ACF were developed by the California Air Resources Board (CARB). CARB made the request for a waiver by the EPA but has not done so yet for ACF, given that the rule is not yet approved.
But the ACF as currently proposed stands to have the most immediate impact on the state’s trucking sector, given that it bars the registration of any new vehicles into the state’s drayage sector after Jan. 1, 2025, that are not ZEVs.
CARB is expected to approve the ACF rule after its second public hearing April 27.
California was granted special consideration under the Clean Air Act passed in 1970 to seek its own air standards beyond what was in the act, but it needs federal approval to do so. The law is written to make it highly challenging for the EPA to deny a waiver request.
Under the ACT, by 2035, ZEVs will need to represent 55% of Class 2b-3 truck sales, 75% of Class 4-8 straight truck sales and 40% of class 7-8 tractor sales.
The percentages scale up from 2024, when just 5% of vehicles supplied into California for Class 2b-3 and Class 7-8 tractors need to be ZEVs. For next year, that figure is 9% for class 4-8.
The required percentages were modified upward in the final preparation of the rule. But the final years leading up to the 2035 deadline held firm:
For class 2b-3, it’s 35% in 2031, 40% in 2032, 45% in 2033, 50% in 2034 and 55% in 2035 and beyond.
For class 4-8, the ladder goes 55%, 60%, 65%, 70% and 75%.
For class 7-8 tractors, the ladder is 35% and then 40% through to 2035 and beyond.
Whether it’s fear or enthusiasm, depending on which side of the political divide a person sits on, the California rules are seen as having the possibility of becoming de facto national rules. Enough other states have said they will follow California’s lead to likely mean that the size of the potential market for California and those six other states could mean that manufacturers won’t want to produce what amounts to two vehicle lines, one for the California-led group and the other for the rest of the country. Under that scenario in the past, the California rules generally come out on top.
The six states that have said they will follow California’s lead are New York, New Jersey, Oregon, Massachusetts, Washington and Vermont.
The American Trucking Associations may have been referring to that indirectly in the statement it released after the EPA announced the waiver.
“By granting California’s waiver for its so-called ‘advanced clean trucks’ rule, the EPA is handing over the keys as a national regulator,” ATA CEO Chris Spear said. “This isn’t the United States of California, and in order to mollify a never satisfied fringe environmental lobby by allowing the state to proceed with these technologically infeasible rules on unworkable and unrealistic timelines, the EPA is sowing the ground for a future supply chain crisis.”
On the other side of the political divide, the prospect of California’s rules becoming a national leader was greeted with praise.
“Just as the Golden State’s leadership played a pivotal role in bringing us the catalytic converter five decades ago, it is playing a key role now in accelerating our transition to an electric future,” Paul Cort, director of Earthjustice’s Right to Zero campaign, said in a prepared statement. “With six states adopting California’s first electric trucks regulation since it was passed in 2020, some 75 million Americans are already lined up to breathe cleaner air. Other states should take notice of today’s news and adopt this life-saving regulation to clean up truck tailpipe pollution.”
In other actions taken by the EPA on waiver requests from California, the agency approved a waiver of a proposal that requires longer warranties for trucks. In a document written in 2018, CARB said the longer warranty periods “would reduce emissions by incentivizing the repair of malfunctioning emission-related components that vehicle owners would not otherwise repair if they had to pay out-of-pocket.”
CARB also had an initial request for a waiver regarding revised rules on nitrous oxide and particulate matter from heavy-duty vehicles. The EPA said it was holding off on granting a waiver for that at the request of CARB, which is seeking additional time.
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