Legal Alerts

California Introduces Nation's First Zero-Emission Truck Standard Despite Concerns From Commercial Trucking Industry

Los Angeles, Calif. (April 17, 2023) – California’s Air Resources Board—a regulatory agency in California responsible for controlling and reducing air pollution—is introducing the nation’s first zero-emission commercial truck standard, which will see the state mandating makers of medium and heavy-duty trucks, such as semi-trailers, big rigs, cement mixers, garbage trucks, delivery vans, and airport shuttles, to sell hybrid or electric heavy-duty trucks. The aim is to increase the supply of such trucks in California in the next two decades. However, this has caused concerns for the commercial trucking industry, including truck manufacturers, suppliers, and vendors, who have highlighted a number of compliance hurdles, such as the lack of charging infrastructure, ongoing supply chain shortages, and pending regulatory changes. Commercial trucking industry groups, like the American Trucking Association, have also warned of the challenges of meeting California’s sales mandates, calling them “unrealistic and unfeasible.”

California has the unique authority to set stricter greenhouse gas emissions standards under a Clean Air Act waiver, and has pursued more aggressive standards due to heightened air pollution problems caused by California’s sheer size, both geographically and in population. Section 177 of the Clean Air Act allows states to adopt California’s stricter vehicle emission standards instead of the federal government’s, and at least six other states have adopted the Advanced Clean Trucks regulation. This standard will raise the percentage of new sales for light, medium, and heavy-duty trucks in California that must be zero-emission starting in 2024, and ultimately, every new truck sold in California must be zero-emission by 2045.

California is also preparing to pass the Advanced Clean Fleets regulation, which requires government-owned fleets, drayage truck operators, and last-mile delivery trucks to use 100% zero-emission vehicles by 2035. The regulation also aims to have 100% zero-emission refuse trucks and local buses by 2040, and 100% zero-emission-capable utility fleets by 2040. The adoption of the Advanced Clean Fleets regulation is up for a vote later this month.

Each of these endeavors are concerning because an efficient supply chain depends on uniform federal laws, not “patchwork” regulation. Specifically, the waiver ignores that the trucking industry and the supply chain are not solely intrastate to California. Allowing California to employ potentially drastic mandates that affect a national and worldwide supply chain can result in dramatic negative effects to consumers, including higher product prices as well as availability and delivery issues. It also raises regulatory questions concerning the availability of charging infrastructure and battery technologies for heavy-duty trucks. And, last but not least, California is facing a pending legal challenge in D.C. federal court that could threaten the state’s efforts to make zero-emission vehicles mandatory.

The uncertainty surrounding this new standard complicates the regulatory and compliance environment for those in the transportation industry, in California and beyond. Lewis Brisbois’ National Transportation Team is available to assist businesses in understanding and complying with all local, state, and federal regulations. Contact the authors below for more information and visit our Transportation and Cargo & Logistics Practice pages for additional alerts in this area.


Andrew Kleiner, Partner 

Julie E. Maurer, Partner

RELATED: Julie Maurer Offers Perspectives to Law360 for Article on California’s Zero-Emission Commercial Truck Standard

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