CARB unveils plan to require 'near zero emission' trucks

By Charlie Morasch, Land Line contributing writer | 5/6/2016

If you thought scientists tasked with cutting emissions in California were above using cow farts to power big rigs, you’d be wrong.

The world’s most powerful truck emissions regulator has crafted a plan to do what truck makers, freight industry leaders and environmental organizations haven’t been able to do: drastically reduce emissions while making goods movement more efficient.

The plan could transform the tractors available to truck buyers as early as 2030.

On Tuesday, May 3, the California Air Resources Board released a draft of the California Sustainable Freight Action Plan, including specific freight efficiency targets, and the deployment of more than 100,000 freight vehicles “capable of zero emission operation” by 2030.

The plan takes a two-pronged approach, including a 2050 timeline and specific targets to be met by 2030.

Large goals of the plan include improving overall freight efficiency in California by 25 percent by the year 2030. 

CARB will accept public comment on the proposed plan until July 6. To read the plan or leave a comment, click here.

CARB Chairman Mary Nichols joined a state energy commissioner and an adviser to Gov. Jerry Brown in celebrating the plan.

“The draft we are releasing today represents an unprecedented collaboration among government agencies, in keeping with the importance of the freight sector to our economy and our environment,” Nichols said in a written statement. “The plan commits to include all stakeholders at every step in the process, from refining goals and selecting pilot projects through implementation into the coming decade. Our challenge is to deliver both public health and economic benefits at our ports, on our highways and in our communities throughout the state.”

On Wednesday, May 4, CARB announced it was funding $24.6 million for zero-emission trucks. The money is expected to purchase 43 zero emission battery electric and hybrid drayage trucks serving major ports in California.

“This project will help put the very cleanest short-haul trucks to work where they are needed most, moving cargo form the state’s biggest ports to distribution centers and rail yards,” Nichols said, according to a CARB news release. “This is good news – and cleaner air – for all Californians, but especially those who live in neighborhoods next to these industrial facilities or along some of our state’s busiest trade corridors.”

CARB partnered with truck manufacturers – including BYD, Kenworth, Peterbilt and Volvo –and a Chinese battery manufacturer to make the zero-emission equipment. Companies receiving the funds were chosen in part due to their ability to “support commercialization of advanced technologies related to moving freight to and from the ports,” CARB said in a news release.

Many in trucking are likely to watch the proposed draft plan and its grant program closely. Not only could the plan limit the ability of small trucking operations to compete for freight in one of the largest trucking states in the U.S., but previous drayage emissions programs in California were criticized after truck grant recipients were found to accept new trucks and use them for trucking largely outside the state.

The draft plan would include multiple pilot projects, including the use of dairy bio-gas for renewable natural gas as a transportation fuel and using advanced technology for such truck corridors as Interstates 710, 10 and 15.

The plan calls for the investigation of future ideas to improve freight movement and efficiency. Those ideas include nontraditional transport methodologies, including unmanned aircraft, dedicated clean energy underground facilities for trucks to bring freight to, and hyperloops.

To boost efficiencies, the plan calls for increased and “more advanced” truck parking, freight traveler information systems, load consolidation, and reservation systems at ports.

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