Watch Now

CARB boss: California, feds could align on truck pollution rules

California Air Resources Board chair urges EPA to back toughest option on NOx pollution

Laine Randolph, chair of the California Air Resources Board, addresses the Work Truck Show in Indianapolis on Tuesday, March 8. (Photo: Alan Adler/FreightWaves)

INDIANAPOLIS — California and the federal government could align on a single regulation for nitrogen oxide emissions from trucks, but the Environmental Protection Agency would have to pick the toughest of the options it laid out in proposed rulemaking.

“I think we are interested in the federal government being as aggressive as possible,” Liane Randolph, chair of the California Air Resources Board (CARB), told FreightWaves after an address to the Green Truck Summit at NTEA Work Truck Show on Tuesday. “We are advocating as much ambition from the federal government as possible.”

The EPA issued expected rules for comment, a notice of proposed rulemaking, on Monday that would cut smog-forming NOx emissions by up to 90% by 2031. If adopted, the federal rules would be the first in more than two decades to reduce tailpipe emissions from trucks. 

CARB oversees air pollution regulations in the nation’s largest and most-polluted state, the only one allowed to set its own emissions standards. It is already requiring tough NOx emissions reduction by 2031.  

During the Trump administration, the EPA’s Cleaner Truck Initiative was seen as a path to a 50-state standard on NOx pollution. Randolph’s predecessor, Mary Nichols, said in December 2018 such a plan could succeed. It went nowhere.

Seen this movie before

Now, almost four years later, the possibility of one regulation again is being discussed. Randolph said she has not carefully examined the draft from EPA Administrator Michael Regan. But she has hope that a deal could be struck with the Biden administration, which is pushing for electric vehicle adoption and putting up money for infrastructure development.

“As I look at option one, we would eventually get to alignment,” Randolph said. “I’m very optimistic that the federal government will continue to support the transition to zero [emissions] and to support strong NOx regulations as we move toward zero.”

California is requiring not only more onboard technology to reduce NOx emissions but also requiring longer manufacturer warranties to protect fleets that have little say in how the trucks they purchase are designed.

“This comprehensive regulation will deliver the largest reduction of NOx and [particulate matter pollution] from heavy-duty vehicles since CARB’s adoption of the pioneering truck and bus regulation in 2008,” she said.

Sales and purchase quotas

Meanwhile, California is seeking to both create and fill a market for nonpolluting battery-electric and hydrogen fuel cell-electric trucks beginning in 2024. Fifteen states signed a memorandum of understanding, choosing to follow California rather than federal emissions standards.

The Advanced Clean Truck rule, which five states have adopted, requires a quota of electric truck sales in 2024. A companion rule will require fleets to purchase those trucks in the same time frame. 

“It really is a coordinated strategy,” Randolph said. “That rule will be coming to the board in October for adoption and the requirements start in 2024 aligning with Advanced Clean Trucks.”

The stakes for California, and the trucking industry, are huge. The Golden State expects to save $9 billion a year in health coverage through cleaner air and the trucking industry $7 billion to $12 billion in lower fuel costs and reduced maintenance on trucks that have fewer parts that break or wear out.

Laine Randolph, chair of the California Air Resources Board

“From a business perspective, the cost of zero-emission heavy-duty trucks is already penciling out on a total cost of ownership basis across many different applications,” Randolph said. “Trucking companies that are preparing now for the zero-emission transition will be at the forefront of the transformation.”

There is a pull for less-polluting trucks even though they will cost more than diesel-powered models. California is addressing that through a range of incentives, including vouchers of up to $150,000 for the purchase of a Class 8 truck used in drayage.

“What I hear a lot from fleet owners is their customers are interested in sustainability and being able to say, ‘Hey, we are using zero-emission vehicles,” Randolph said. “So I think there is going to be a lot of excitement on the part of fleets.”

EPA proposes stricter zero-emission standards for trucks

Kenworth sees orders for electric trucks triple in 3 months

Electric truck charging: Can infrastructure keep pace with demand?

Click for more FreightWaves articles by Alan Adler

Alan Adler

Alan Adler is an award-winning journalist who worked for The Associated Press and the Detroit Free Press. He also spent two decades in domestic and international media relations and executive communications with General Motors.