CARB inks flexible deal on clean-air rules with truck/engine makers

Avatar photo

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has signed an “unprecedented” pact with North America’s largest truck and engine manufacturers that resolves key issues dogging the advance to zero emissions in one fell swoop.

Dubbed the Clean Truck Partnership, the agreement announced on July 6 is meant to be a flexible solution to the quandary of how manufacturers can meet mandated emissions requirements while enabling the state to reach its climate-change and emission-reduction goals.

The Clean Truck Partnership includes Cummins, Daimler Truck North America, Ford Motor Company, General Motors Company, Hino Motors, Isuzu Technical Center of America, Navistar, Paccar, Stellantis NV, Volvo Group North America, and the Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association (EMA).

engine assembly
(File photo: John G. Smith)

The deal comes as California prepares to implement its rules for “a phased-in transition toward 100% sale and use” of zero-emissions technology for medium- and-heavy duty vehicles under CARB’s Advanced Clean Trucks and Advanced Clean Fleets rules by 2045.

CARB also noted the significance of the Biden administration having earlier approved California’s waiver of exemption under the federal Clean Air Act. Whenever the state secures these waivers, according to CARB, other states that “are or have been noncompliant with federal ambient air quality standards” are allowed to adopt California’s standards as their own.

The upshot of that is CARB and the manufacturers are now “aligned on a single nationwide nitrogen oxide emissions standard, secured needed lead time and stability for manufacturers, and agreed on regulatory changes that will ensure continued availability of commercial vehicles,” EMA President Jed Mandel said in a statement.

Clean Truck Partnership details

Here are the twin pillars of the public-private partnership, per CARB:

  • “A commitment from the companies to meet California’s vehicle standards that will require the sale and adoption of zero-emissions technology in the state, regardless of whether any other entity challenges California’s authority to set more stringent emissions standards under the federal Clean Air Act.”
  • “In turn, CARB has agreed to work collaboratively with manufacturers to provide reasonable lead time to meet CARB’s requirements and before imposing new regulations and to support the development of necessary ZEV infrastructure.”

CARB will align with the U.S. Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) 2027 regulations for nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, and “modify elements” of the 2024 NOx emission regulations for which manufacturers will provide offsets as necessary to maintain California’s emission targets. It also commits to providing no less than four years of lead time and at least three years of “regulatory stability” before imposing new requirements.

For their part, truck manufacturers commit to meeting CARB’s zero-emission and criteria pollutant regulations in the state– regardless of any attempts by other entities to challenge California’s authority.

“The unprecedented collaboration between California regulators and truck manufacturers marks a new era in our zero-emission future, where we work together to address the needs of both the trucking industry and the Californians who deserve to breathe clean air,” CARB Chair Liane Randolph said in a statement.

Blue sky or not

As sunnily optimistic as this deal is, it did not fall out of a clear blue sky. Rather, it arose in large part out of a lawsuit, resulting lobbying, and organizational politicking.

While CARB and the U.S. Environmental Protection have been promulgating clean-air rules for trucks since at least 1985, the Clean Truck Partnership developed from the argument of truck and engine makers that they could not easily meet CARB’s Advanced Clean Fleets rule. This decree, issued on April 28, is “a first-of-its-kind rule that requires a phased-in transition toward zero-emission medium-and-heavy duty vehicles,” stated CARB.

The meat of the matter is that the Advanced Clean Fleets rule includes this provision, per CARB: “… an end to combustion truck sales in 2036, a first-in-the-world requirement that factors in public commitments to transition to zero-emission technology by truck manufacturers, potential cost savings for fleets, and accelerated benefits for California communities.” The rule’s timeline also requires manufacturers to start producing cleaner trucks by 2024.

What’s more is that in December 2021, CARB issued its Heavy-Duty Engine and Vehicle Omnibus regulation, a package of stringent emission standards, test procedures, and other emission-related requirements for heavy-duty on-highway engines and trucks sold in California. This rule requires engine and truck manufacturers to comply with these new standards on Jan. 1, 2024– providing manufacturers with only two years of lead time.

Aiming to secure at least four model years of lead time, the Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association (EMA) sued CARB in May 2022. This legal action was short-lived, as EMA withdrew its suit last August, no doubt due to heavy pushback by environmental advocacy groups and even by some EMA members, including Cummins, Ford, and GM. Those companies publicly stated they did not support the litigation.

Trucking associations respond to deal

Leading trucking associations have already decried the Clean Truck Partnership.

“We’ve long advocated for a single, national standard that respects and preserves interstate commerce. However, the trucking industry shouldn’t be strong armed by the government into an agreement with such terms,” Chris Spear, president and CEO of the American Trucking Associations, added in a statement about the Clean Truck Partnership itself.

“Our association represents motor carrier members – the paying customers who will inherit the costs of this agreement – and we will not roll over nor relinquish our right to litigate with any party when our interests are threatened. It is clear that America has lost its way when the government bullies the private sector to succumb to unachievable timelines, targets and technologies.”

“Unfortunately, with this agreement, the motor carrier and its drivers will experience the pain points of this ill-suited compromise.  As we have continued to point out, the issues of reliability, affordability and achievability of these regulations must remain at the forefront of these conversations,” said Jim Ward, president of the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA).

“The trucking industry continues to be in the crosshairs of communicating all of these to a customer base that won’t entirely understand the ramifications of such rhetoric filled rules. Concerns of equipment reliability, infrastructure uncertainty and high cost of these trucks will reveal themselves as we move closer to these deadlines and our government officials will once again be forced to explain the shortcomings of the nation’s supply chain when now is the actual time to resolve these matters to develop environmentally friendly trucks that would continue to deliver this nation.”

  • The story has been updated to include comments from the American Trucking Associations and Truckload Carriers Association.
Avatar photo

David Cullen has been covering trucking for top-tier media platforms continuously since 1981. He served as executive editor of Heavy Duty Trucking from 2015 to 2020 and prior to that was executive editor of Fleet Owner, where he was on staff from 1989 to 2015. He launched his career in 1981 with DES (Diesel Equipment Superintendent), where he served as editor from 1985 to 1989. Cullen is known for his coverage of legislative and regulatory issues and business-related topics impacting trucking.

Have your say

This is a moderated forum. Comments will no longer be published unless they are accompanied by a first and last name and a verifiable email address. (Today's Trucking will not publish or share the email address.) Profane language and content deemed to be libelous, racist, or threatening in nature will not be published under any circumstances.