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California Trucking Association sues to block Advanced Clean Fleets rule

Lawsuit seeks to block implementation weeks before rule would start to kick in

The California Trucking Association has filed suit against CARB over the Advanced Clean Fleets rule. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

With the first requirements of California’s Advanced Clean Fleets (ACF) rule set to go in effect  in just a few weeks, the California Trucking Association (CTA) has asked a federal court to block the regulation’s implementation.

The lawsuit, filed Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, requests both a preliminary and permanent injunction to stop the California Air Resources Board (CARB) from enforcing the rule. 

CTA officials hinted in recent months that such a suit might be coming.

The CTA argues that California exceeded its authority in creating the ACF. The rule mandates a phase-out of internal combustion engines (ICE) in trucks by 2040. But on a more pressing timeline, no ICE-powered trucks could be added to the state’s drayage registry after Jan. 1, 2024; they must be zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs).

The CTA’s arguments are:

  • The ACF violates the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act (F4A), which coincidentally is a key argument used by the CTA in its lawsuit to block the implementation of the state’s independent contractor law, AB5, in California’s trucking sector. F4A, a law that dates back to the early 1990s, blocks a state from passing a regulation that impacts a “price, route or service” offered by a trucking company.

The other claims in the lawsuit are generally linked in one way or another to these two critiques and essentially argue that California wildly exceeded its authority in passing ACF.

“Instead of providing an assurance of clear and compliant regulations, the California Air Resources Board has promulgated the ACF regulations, which expands California’s regulatory authority well beyond its borders and establishes such untenable mandates that CARB itself has already been compelled to informally promise certain provisions will not be enforced,” the CTA suit states. CARB’s actions “represent a vast overreach that threatens the security and predictability of the nation’s goods movement industry.”

The suit notes that ACF may have had a pathway to legal federal approval. But as it notes, “EPA may, but has not, granted a waiver for CARB to adopt and enforce a regulation like ACF.  While CARB may claim otherwise, ACF cannot be enforced until such waiver is granted.” 

As far as CTA’s charge that ACF violates F4A, the CTA says ACF “creates precisely the type of patchwork the F4A was designed to avoid, as motor carriers must modify their services and routes to support ZEVs both inside and outside California. The impact on the nation’s logistics industry of ACF’s requirements would be nothing short of disastrous.”

CTA says in the suit that a state can implement its own requirements on the sale of vehicles in its borders, “but only when those mandates strictly comply with federal requirements.” It cites a provision of the Clean Air Act: the Clean Fuel Fleet Program (CFFP). But CTA says there are stricter guidelines under the CFFP on what a state can do than CARB has adopted in the ACF, in violation of what it says was “Congress’ carefully calibrated balance between federal and state authority over fleet vehicle emissions.”

CTA’s arguments regarding federal supremacy take several forms.

“In no form has the legislature granted to CARB, or Congress granted to EPA, the authority to adopt a regulation with such sweeping power over the California economy and by virtue of the interstate nature of California’s trucking industry, the national economy,” CTA argues.

That passage is under a request for relief because of the CTA’s view that the Clean Air Act preempts the ACF rule. But the question of federal supremacy shows up throughout the lawsuit. 

CTA rips CARB for confusion under its claim that the ACF violates due process. “ACF presents no clear regulatory scheme that can be understood by regulated parties, nor even by CARB itself,” the suit says. “The voluminous record during ACF rulemaking demonstrates the clear confusion regulated parties have in understanding their obligations under the rule.”

More articles by John Kingston

Once again, California tells a court AB5 isn’t disrupting trucking in the state 

CARB sets up unit to help fleets navigate California’s Clean Fleets rule

California Supreme Court to review rulings on constitutionality of Prop 22


  1. Joseph Hilleary

    I think all carriers should file a class action billion dollar lawsuit against the state of California and carb for regulations and that will put small carriers out of business

  2. Steve

    Seem CAB violates the Interstate Commerce Law. Supreme Court: HP Hood VS NY 1949
    This case set up the burdens and benefits analysis that lies at the core of many dormant Commerce Clause inquiries. A state cannot place excessive burdens on exporting local products in order to benefit its own interests. Free trade among the states is important to the well-being of the nation, and economic protectionist measures generally will not survive unless there is a specific, clearly articulable local interest supporting them.

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John Kingston

John has an almost 40-year career covering commodities, most of the time at S&P Global Platts. He created the Dated Brent benchmark, now the world’s most important crude oil marker. He was Director of Oil, Director of News, the editor in chief of Platts Oilgram News and the “talking head” for Platts on numerous media outlets, including CNBC, Fox Business and Canada’s BNN. He covered metals before joining Platts and then spent a year running Platts’ metals business as well. He was awarded the International Association of Energy Economics Award for Excellence in Written Journalism in 2015. In 2010, he won two Corporate Achievement Awards from McGraw-Hill, an extremely rare accomplishment, one for steering coverage of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster and the other for the launch of a public affairs television show, Platts Energy Week.