EPA OKs California Rules Phasing Out New Diesel Trucks

Manufacturers Must Sell Higher Percentage of Zero-Emission Vehicles Starting in 2024
Trucks on a highway
Eight other states plan to adopt California’s truck standards, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office said. (WendellandCarolyn/Getty Images)

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has granted California environmental regulators waivers to officially move forward with the agency’s aggressive plans to transition diesel trucks to electric vehicles and expand the length of truck warranties.

Specifically, the EPA’s waiver approval gives the California Air Resources Board permission to adopt its Advanced Clean Trucks Regulation that requires manufacturers to produce and sell increasing quantities of medium- and heavy-duty zero-emission trucks in California.

The 2018 Heavy-Duty Warranty amendments, also approved by EPA, will extend the emissions warranty periods for 2022 and subsequent model year on-road heavy-duty diesel engines and for 2022 and subsequent model year diesel vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating exceeding 14,000 pounds powered by such engines.

Under the Clean Air Act, California is afforded broad discretion to adopt emissions requirements to meet its significant air quality challenges, but it must seek waivers from EPA for new motor vehicle emission standards. The state has the dirtiest air in the nation.

“In this instance, CARB requested two waivers for regulations relating to heavy duty vehicles and engines,” EPA said in a March 31 release. “After reviewing the technical information provided by CARB, reviewing comments submitted by the public, and applying the limited authority for review under section 209 of the Clean Air Act, EPA determined it appropriate to grant the waiver and authorization requests.”

“Under the Clean Air Act, California has long-standing authority to address pollution from cars and trucks,” said EPA Administrator Michael Regan. “Today’s announcement allows the state to take additional steps in reducing their transportation emissions through these new regulatory actions.”

CARB announced its request for a federal waiver in June, and EPA held a two-day hearing to solicit input on the regulations. The state agency’s plan has not been well-received by many in the trucking industry.

Chris Spear


American Trucking Associations President Chris Spear said in a release that the decision to allow California to move forward with what he described as, “damaging and unrealistic” emissions rules will harm the industry nationwide.

“By granting California’s waiver for its so-called ‘advanced clean trucks’ rule, the EPA is handing over the keys as a national regulator,” Spear said. “This isn’t the United States of California, and in order to mollify a never-satisfied fringe environmental lobby by allowing the state to proceed with these technologically infeasible rules on unworkable and unrealistic timelines, the EPA is sowing the ground for a future supply chain crisis.”

Because California has the nation’s worst air, it sets strict and often controversial standards to meet “compelling and extraordinary conditions,” according to the state’s environmental officials. However, for decades EPA has generally agreed to grant the waivers to the state, which require it to implement standards that are at least as protective as federal standards.

Under the new rules, truck manufacturers who certify Class 2b-8 chassis or complete vehicles with combustion engines must sell zero-emission trucks as an increasing percentage of their annual California sales starting in 2024. By 2035, zero-emission truck/chassis sales must account for 55% of Class 2b–3 truck sales, 75% of Class 4–8 straight truck sales and 40% of truck tractor sales, according to CARB.

An Amazon truck on a California road

A semitruck turns into an Amazon Fulfillment center in Eastvale, Calif. (Watchara Phomicinda/The Orange County Register via Associated Press)

The new regulations have received support from state air quality officials nationwide, but a number of motor carriers and truck trade organizations have joined ATA in cautioning that the rule is moving forward too fast.

Tweaks to the CARB rule are being planned to allow for certain exemptions when electric trucks are not available to meet deadlines.

The regulation also lengthens the useful life and emission warranty of heavy-duty diesel engines for use in vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating greater than 10,000 pounds.

EPA has also conducted a public comment process regarding CARB’s Heavy-Duty Omnibus Low NOx Regulation which establishes criteria pollutant exhaust emission standards for nitrogen oxide and particulate matter as well as other emission-related requirements for new 2024 and subsequent model year on-road medium- and heavy-duty engines and vehicles. CARB has asked EPA for additional time before the agency acts on the waiver request for the Omnibus regulation. EPA expects to act upon this waiver request as appropriate.

The CARB board is expected to vote on adopting the Advanced Clean Fleets Regulation sometime in late April.

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