What happens in California doesn’t stay in California

  • After California approves the nation’s first electric truck sales mandate, more states seek transition to zero-emission trucks
  • Ten states have already adopted California’s zero-emission sales mandates for cars and light-duty vehicles.
  • Six Northeastern states, along with Oregon and California, to create action plan aimed at accelerating adoption of zero-emission big rigs

California made headlines in June when it approved the world’s first electric truck sales mandate, a standard that requires manufacturers to sell increasing numbers of zero emission Class 4-8 vehicles. Lesser known but equally impactful is that a growing number of states have signaled their intent to speed up the transition to zero-emission big rigs, some by adopting a regulation similar to California’s.

An air quality program manager for the Washington State Department of Ecology testified in favor of California’s Advanced Clean Truck (ACT) rule, and the state is now “carefully looking” at the possibility of implementing a similar program, Stu Clark, special assistant to the department director, told FreightWaves.

Another potential follower is the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The Northeastern state adopts California’s motor vehicle standards and zero-emission vehicle requirements unless federal standards are “more protective,” a spokesperson for the Massachusetts Department of Environment told FreightWaves, “which they currently are not.”

As a result, the spokesperson said, the department expects to propose rulemaking to adopt the California electric truck provisions once they are finalized.

Where the Golden State leads, others will follow

On June 25, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) approved the clean truck rule, a regulation that would require original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to sell electric trucks. It is the first state to adopt such a standard. But if history is any precedent, others will travel the same path, or at least will attempt to do so. 

Ten states have already adopted California’s zero-emission sales mandates for cars and light-duty vehicles. Fifteen states follow California’s greenhouse gas emissions standards for vehicles, a metric that is stricter than the standard set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 

In a statement emailed to FreightWaves, John Putnam, director of environmental programs at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said Colorado is “open to a range of policy proposals to reduce emissions from medium- and heavy-duty vehicles.”

The state “is carefully examining the California Air Resource Board’s recent electric truck rule,” Putnam said. It is one “of many options on the table as we look for effective, scientifically supported policies that will reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollutants from the state’s transportation sector.” 

Steve Flint, air resources director for New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation, testified during the June hearing in support of California’s adoption of the sales mandate. The department is now evaluating next steps, a spokesperson told FreightWaves.

Maryland continues to push for transportation electrification, along with state flexibility to “customize programs that can meet environmental, transportation, and citizen-driven needs, many of which depend on trucks,” said Jay Apperson, director of communications for the Maryland Department of Environment.

The idea of sales targets as voluntary benchmarks, not mandates, is under discussion, Apperson added.

An expanding circle

Regional efforts curtailing emissions from heavy duty trucks are also gaining traction, with California often playing a role as catalyst or active participant.

In December 2019, California, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont signed a Statement of Intent supporting accelerated deployment of medium- and heavy-duty zero-emission trucks and buses. 

The group agreed to develop an action plan and a memorandum of understanding (MOU), to be released sometime this summer, according to Kathy Kinsey, senior policy adviser for the Clean Air Association of the Northeast States (NESCAUM), a nonprofit that is facilitating the collaboration. 

The multi-state effort will focus on “market-enabling” initiatives including incentives and outreach to identify and address cost, fueling infrastructure and other barriers to electric truck adoption. It could also include regulatory measures.

“I expect that each of the section 177 states will decide individually if they want to propose adoption of the ACT rule once it’s finalized,” Kinsey told FreightWaves. “It’s really a state-by-state decision.”

Section 177 states are those that have established their own Clean Air Act programs that follow the more stringent tailpipe emission and fuel economy standards set by California rather than the EPA.  

Industry’s watchful eye

Trucking associations said they were keeping tabs on the burgeoning efforts, and lobbying for policies that would relieve the cost burden if and when new regulatory requirements are implemented.

“It’s not a huge surprise that Washington would decide to follow California on the clean truck rule, Washington Trucking Associations Executive Director Sheri Call told FreightWaves.

Washington adopted California’s zero-emission auto sales mandate last year.

“The best we can do is keep our eye on what is happening innovation-wise with power technology and advising our members on incentives,” Call said.

Related stories:

California approves world’s first electric truck sales mandate

California regulators to fleets: Buy those electric trucks

Trump action blocking California emissions authority will not impact trucking — for now

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