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CARB clear on lack of changes in California Clean Fleets rule

Phaseout of older vehicles tweaked, but heart of regulation stays in place

The latest update on the California Fleet Rule is not that much different than what came before. (Photo: John Kingston)

The news out of a recent hearing on the Advanced Clean Fleets regulation set to go into effect in California toward the end of the year basically was there was no news. 

Still, the outcome of the California Air Resources Board (CARB) workshop likely brought to an end any hope, if it existed, that there is not going to be any meaningful change in the rules that seriously kick in next year as California seeks to make its way toward an emission-free truck fleet in the future.

The heart of the Advanced Clean Fleets rule remains the same: A truck must be removed from service at the end of its “minimum useful life threshold,” which is defined as the later of the dates of a truck hitting 800,000 miles or being a model year that is 18 years old after when the engine and emissions control systems were “first certified by CARB or U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (whichever comes earlier),” or 13 years after the model year and engine and emissions control system were certified by CARB or EPA.

To enable that mandate to be implemented, there is also a provision that beginning Jan. 1, 2025, truck owners must report mileage and model year to the state of California for any trucks that are 12 years or older. 

Earlier provisions on older engines in drayage vehicles brought down the curtain on engines manufactured from 2007 to 2009 at the end of 2022. 

And in the most looming significant change, no internal combustion engine trucks can be registered in the state’s system after Jan. 1, 2024. Only zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) will be permitted. Looking to the future, starting Jan. 1, 2035, all drayage trucks must be ZEVs. 

Under the provisions of the High Priority Fleet regulations, for fleets with more than $50 million in revenue registered in Callifornia, sleeper cab tractor Milestones, the formal name for targets that CARB uses, were not changed in the latest amended rule. 

Ten percent of a fleet must be ZEV by 2030. That rises to 25% by 2033, 50% by 2036, 75% by 2039 and full ZEV by 2042 and beyond. 

For day cab tractors, the Milestones for those percentages must be met, respectively, by 2027, 2030, 2033, 2036 and 2039. 

CARB’s biggest change appears to be allowing some more leeway on complying with the rule in future years if vehicles can’t be delivered in a timely manner or if recharging capabilities can’t be provided to certain areas of the larger port system served by the drayage sector.

Concern has been expressed that recharging infrastructure will not be adequate to meet the goals of the Clean Fleets rule, despite various announcements of new investments in recharging. 

The infrastructure construction delay exemption has several key points.

One of those provisions, which already had been in place, is that if a truck owner can show that it is hit with a “construction delay beyond their control,” a CARB official can offer an extension for up to two years to delay delivery of a ZEV vehicle. That extension originally had been written as one year. 

Another provision is a relief valve for delays in the installation of charging infrastructure. If a drayage truck owner can demonstrate that charging facilities for ZEVs cannot be implemented at a location where it has a recharging contract, that owner can apply for an extension of three years past a compliance date. An additional two years can be tacked on after that.  

This provision is new. But there is a twist. If it can be demonstrated that part of the planned capacity can be provided, then compliance must meet those capabilities. “Drayage truck owners or controlling parties utilizing this extension must deploy as many zero-emission vehicles as can be supported by the power the utility can serve over time needed to meet their compliance requirement,” the new proposed rule says.

To receive that delay, CARB needs to receive a document “explaining the reason for the delay, why retail infrastructure cannot be used, the estimated completion date of the project, and a letter, documentation supporting the reason for the delay from the licensed contractor performing the work or the, related utility, building department, or other organizations involved in the project.”

The core of a vehicle delivery delay exemption remains the same. If delivery of a vehicle is delayed for reasons beyond control of the drayage operator, an extension can be requested. But to do so, the drayage operator needs to show that it had signed a contract to acquire the vehicle through lease or purchase at least one year before the new compliance date. It must be, according to the rule, a “written, signed and dated legally binding contract.”

There are three other changes:

  • If the manufacturer of a ZEV cancels an order, the buyer in the past needed to secure another ZEV within 90 days to keep the formal delay alive. That figure is now 180 days.
  • Another new provision from CARB deals with the issue of internal combustion engine (ICE) trucks that have been in an accident and can’t be repaired. If that truck is replaced by another ICE truck, it needs to be the same model year or newer than the truck that was in the wreck. But the useful life definition doesn’t reset to the newer truck; the age of the legacy truck is governing.
  • If a drayage truck owner has a vehicle with a replacement engine but is not sure of the model year of that engine, the year of the truck less one year is assumed to be the engine’s age.  

The hearing from earlier this month did not just focus on drayage; it focused on the entire Clean Fleets rule. The Clean Fleets rule goes hand-in-hand with the Clean Trucks rule, which puts requirements on vehicle manufacturers to meet certain production targets that in turn are necessary for the goals of the Clean Fleets rule to go into effect.

The High Priority Fleets section of the Clean Fleets rule is applied to fleets with $50 million or more in revenue reported to the IRS and with 50 or more trucks owned or controlled. It affects vehicles weighing more than 8,500 pounds. 

As noted, the High Priority Fleets rule also has a mandate to remove ICE vehicles after their useful life standards are exceeded beginning in January 2025, under the same mileage parameters as in the drayage sector.

There is a lengthy list of purchase exemptions, many of them with multiple tests that must be met for them to take effect. But in its presentation on High Priority Fleets, CARB lists numerous ZEV options on the market or coming to market, suggesting that it might be wary of a request for an exemption from a buyer that says it cannot obtain a ZEV.

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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.