Replacing dirty trucks with electric versions will enable the state to reach its climate action goals on time
The California Air Resources Board is currently developing a rule to protect communities and grow the economy. The Advanced Clean Fleets (ACF) rule sets out to accomplish this by gradually transitioning public and private fleets away from dirty fossil fuel vehicles to clean zero-emission vehicles. The draft rule targets four critical market segments:
- Trucks operating at ports or railyards known as “drayage” trucks
- State and local government fleets
- Federal fleets and large privately owned fleets known as “high-priority” fleets
- Zero-emission vehicle manufacturer sales requirement
Given the magnitude of California’s air pollution and climate crises, and federal inaction, forward-looking state action to clean up transportation pollution is more critical than ever.
Why Californians Need a Strong ACF Rule
By burning fossil fuels, trucks and buses are a major source of harmful air pollution, like nitrogen oxide (NOx) and particulate matter (PM), and the greenhouse gases (GHGs) causing climate change. In California, trucks are only 7% of all on-road vehicles but pump out 62% of all on-road NOx emissions, 56% of PM pollution, and 27% of GHGs. Clearly, we need to clean up these vehicles.
A common sight on California’s highways are trucks clogging lanes, blowing thick smoke into the sky while overheated trucks rest at the side. It’s so normal that we stop thinking about it but that exhaust permeating the air harms our lungs and bodies.
Fortunately, a zero-pollution solution exists: electric trucks. Nearly a thousand electric trucks are on California’s roads, and over a thousand more are expected in the coming years thanks to state incentive program. Zero-emission vehicles are a critical technology to reduce transportation's impact on air quality and the climate crisis, but more are needed and faster. Rapidly shifting from dirty fossil fuels to electric trucks will cut air pollution, improving public health.
What the ACF Rule Does and How CARB must Improve the Proposal
The ACF rule is under development and expected to be finalized next year. The current proposal includes four interrelated elements:
- Beginning in 2024, only zero-emission drayage trucks (trucks that serve the ports and railyards) can be added, and old trucks must retire after 18 years to ensure all drayage trucks are zero-emission by 2035.
- State and local government fleets must ensure half of all new truck purchases are zero- emission in 2024 and all new trucks are zero-emission by 2027.
- High priority and federal fleets must meet the model year schedule, or optional ZEV Milestone schedule.
- Manufacturers can only sell zero-emission medium- and heavy-duty vehicles in 2040.
The current proposal is well-intentioned but lacks ambition and leaves too many of California’s trucks and buses unaccounted for. In 2045, when Governor Newsom’s Executive Order calls for a 100 percent zero-emission truck fleet, the current proposal leaves nearly half the truck population combustion-powered.
Here’s how CARB can fix the problem:
- Require 100% zero-emission vehicle sales by 2036. Stronger sales will speed up zero-emission vehicle deployment across California and encourage private sector investment.
- Expand the number of high priority fleets trucks to cover more trucks and deter companies from exploiting truck drivers through misclassification.
- Accelerate the zero-emission vehicle purchase timeline for high-polluting Class 7-8 tractors, to provide relief to freight impacted communities as quickly as possible.
The opportunity is now. Change breeds unease—industry needs regulatory certainty to accelerate the transition to zero-emission trucks. By adopting a strong ACF rule, CARB can send a clear market signal to manufacturers and fleets, helping unlock private sector investments in zero-emission solutions.
Other States are Looking to California for Leadership
A handful of states—Oregon, Washington, New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts—have already followed in California’s footsteps by adopting the Advanced Clean Trucks rule last year, which requires a growing percentage of all zero-emission medium- and heavy-duty trucks to sold in their respective states. A dozen more states committed to zeroing out truck pollution and, in a recently released NESCAUM action plan, identified a strong ACF rule as a core strategy to meet their objectives.
Meanwhile, the federal government is working on national clean truck standards. However, the federally proposed EPA rule is weak and doesn’t do anything to accelerate zero-emission vehicles. Unfortunately, the federal government may be bending to industry demands rather than protecting public health. This reinforces the need for a strong California ACF rule to help drive the country forward.
ACF Rule Must Meet the Moment
An ambitious ACF rule could expand electric trucks and buses in overburdened communities at a pace necessary to protect people. The technology solutions are here, cost-effective, and ready for widespread use. The future is here, and with a strong ACF rule, California has the opportunity to continue leading the nation.
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The Advance Clean Fleets rule proposal is a serious step towards electrifying trucks that will transform California's ports, highways, and communities. Yet, the proposal can achieve far more than what it currently is set-up for.