California looks to ban all gas and diesel truck fleets

A controversial new proposal to ban diesel-powered trucks in California has sparked a divisive debate among the trucking industry, the state and environmentalists.  

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Currently, fewer than 2,000 medium- and heavy-duty vehicles in California are zero-emission. The California Air Resources Board has laid out an ambitious plan to eventually force all diesel truck fleets off the road, with varying timelines. This includes mandating that all new trucks operating around busy railways and ports be zero-emission vehicles by 2024; phasing out all diesel trucks from those areas by 2035; and eventually taking every diesel truck and bus fleet off California roads by 2045, where feasible. 

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The proposed Advance Clean Fleets regulation first targets the busiest trucking areas in the state -- around warehouses, sea ports and railways. The board says the pollution in these areas affects communities disproportionately.  "Many California neighborhoods, especially Black and Brown, low-income and vulnerable communities, live, work, play and attend schools adjacent to the ports, railyards, distribution centers, and freight corridors and experience the heaviest truck traffic," the board wrote, adding that this pollution causes health risks to those communities. 

At a recent hearing on the issue in Sacramento, over 150 public commenters voiced divisive opinions on the proposal. Many representing the trucking and construction industries said that there simply isn't enough charging capability or grid capacity in the state to move fleets over to zero-emission vehicles so quickly. (The shift away from internal combustion engines in big rigs has largely moved to battery-powered vehicles, though hydrogen fuel cell technology is also being developed.)   "The infrastructure cannot be established in the timeframe given," said Mike Tunnell of the American Trucking Association. "Fleets will have to deploy trucks that cannot do the same job as their current trucks."

Others pointed to logistical problems in charging electric vehicles. "This will do damage to us. We don't really understand how to charge these vehicles," said construction company CEO Jaimie Angus. "Those pieces of equipment go home with those men every day, so they'll need to be charged from home?

How do you compensate that person for that?" Meanwhile, environmentalists, including a representative from the Sierra Club, urged that the timeline be expedited to rid the roads of internal combustion engines sooner rather than later. Currently, fewer than 2,000 medium- and heavy-duty vehicles in California are zero-emission, and the vast majority of them are buses, reports Cal Matters.

California is at the forefront of the shift away from fossil fuels to reduce the devastating effects of climate change. In August, the state made the historic decision to ban the sale of new gasoline-powered cars by 2035, a move that is expected to lead to a 50% reduction in pollution from cars by 2040. Meanwhile, many cities in wildfire-threatened wine country have banned the construction of new gas stations

Cal Matters reports that a second hearing and vote on the Advanced Clean Fleets proposal will likely take place in the spring.  

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