Today, the California Air Resources Board voted to pass the Advanced Clean Fleets (ACF) rule, the state’s second zero emissions trucks rule, in a move that continues to put California at the forefront of the fight to clean up tailpipe pollution. The ACF will shift all truck sales to zero emissions by 2036, and is especially focused on large fleets of polluting vehicles. In the big picture, the rule will deliver astounding health benefits to Californians, who have lived for decades under the mantle of a smog problem caused in large part by the worst polluters on the roads: large diesel trucks.
“California’s lung-searing air quality crisis requires bold moves from our state’s leaders, and today’s vote to pass the Advanced Clean Fleets rule is the kind of critical action we need,” said Paul Cort, director of Earthjustice’s Right to Zero campaign. “Diesel trucks are the worst polluters on our roads, pumping an especially harmful form of air pollution into communities living in the shadow of ports and freeways. This new truck rule will have profound health and economic benefits not just here, but in every other state that adopts these clean air protections.”
The new trucks regulation is estimated to deliver a staggering $26.5 billion in public health benefits in California in avoided health impacts and deaths from toxic diesel pollution.
The rule differs from the approach the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been considering with its new trucks rule announced earlier this month, which has much laxer targets, and considers a “zero greenhouse gas emissions” approach that would still allow combustion trucks such as hydrogen combustion trucks that emit other health-harming pollution.
“Frontline communities across California who breathe in deadly diesel pollution every day can finally get some relief with the Advanced Clean Fleets rule. There is no acceptable level of exposure to deadly diesel pollution — so it has got to go, for the sake of our health and our lungs. Environmental justice communities in California are just trying to breathe clean, healthy air, and the shift to zero emissions trucks is a critical step to getting there,” said Andrea Vidaurre, Senior Policy Analyst for the People’s Collective for Environmental Justice.
On top of major health and air quality benefits, the new regulation is also a win for protecting the climate. While medium and heavy-duty trucks are just 10% of the vehicles on U.S. roads, they pump out 25% of the greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, the country’s most polluting sector.
The Advanced Clean Fleets rule is expected to deliver robust economic benefits by bringing in billions in federal funding from the Inflation Reduction Act and by lowering fuel costs by buffering companies from rising fossil fuel prices: a California Energy Commission analysis predicts that average 2024-2050 fuel costs for diesel will be 10% higher, gasoline will be 10.3% higher, and “natural” gas will be 1.2% higher, while electricity will be 10.8% lower. The rule is expected to result in a bump of several thousand electrical installation and construction jobs in California, as it will spur demand for new charging infrastructure for zero emissions trucks.
A State Protection with Coast-to-Coast Benefits
The new standard is a companion rule to the Advanced Clean Trucks rule passed in 2020, which first charted out a timeline for zero emissions truck sales and has already been adopted by seven additional states: New York, New Jersey, Washington, Oregon, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Colorado. Colorado just adopted the ACT this week, meaning over 80 million Americans are now lined up to breathe cleaner air under the rule.
The states adopting the ACT are home to the largest ports in the nation, and together are responsible for over 20% of heavy-duty vehicle sales in the country — sending a strong market signal about a shift to zero emissions trucking for the future of the goods movement industry in the United States.
The ACF will require large company and government fleets to begin purchasing zero emissions trucks beginning in 2024, and it will update the sales target so that 100% of all truck sales in California are zero emissions by 2036. Together, these rules will push forward on both the demand and supply of zero emissions trucks.
California Broadens Its Approach to Goods Movement Pollution
In the same hearing, the California Air Resources Board voted to pass the In-Use Locomotive Rule, a first-of-its kind regulation to shift locomotives operating in the state to zero emissions. This innovative rule will require all freight, industrial, and passenger railroads operating in California to clean up their fleets over time. At the height of the rule’s implementation, it will prevent 63 tons per day of NOx emissions, making it the single largest emissions reduction effort in California’s plan to meet clean air standards.
“By adopting a nation-leading standard to curb locomotive emissions, California will save more than 3200 lives, 63 tons per day of NOx emissions, and $32 billion in health costs. The locomotive rule has the power to change the course of history for Californians who have suffered from train pollution for far too long,” said Yasmine Agelidis, attorney on Earthjustice’s Right to Zero campaign. “It is my hope that our federal regulators follow California’s lead and bring much-needed relief to environmental justice communities living near railyards across the nation.”
“We applaud this ambitious move by the California Air Resources Board to mandate electrification of locomotives and trucks, setting a new bar in the state’s efforts to combat climate change and save lives. But, the state must now steer a new course towards electrifying ocean cargo ships by 2040, and bring an end to fossil-fueled shipping in our port cities. By extending its electrification efforts to the shipping industry, California can continue to lead the way both on land and at sea towards a cleaner and healthier future for all,” said Teresa Bui, Climate Policy Director, Pacific Environment.
Nearly 50 years ago, Congress gave California the explicit right under the Clean Air Act to adopt standards that are more protective than the federal government’s in order to protect residents from vehicle pollution. After EPA grants a waiver for California’s regulations, other states can then adopt California’s more protective regulations for the health of their own residents.