California to phase out gas-powered truck and bus fleets to meet climate goals

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Fleets of gas-powered trucks and buses will be pulled off the roads of California in the coming years as the state shifts toward zero-emission vehicles and tries to avert climate change.

The state's air regulator unanimously approved new rules Friday that will force fleet owners to transition to zero-emission vehicles after a two-day hearing that featured pleas from the industry to slow the transition until more zero-emission vehicle options become available as well as people describing the effects of air pollution on the health of their families.

Combined with a Thursday vote ordering railroads to transition to zero-emission by 2047, the new rules address sectors that regulators say play outsize roles in polluting California’s air yet have been regulated less stringently than passenger vehicles.

"Now, with these actions requiring all new heavy-duty truck sales to be zero emission and tackling train pollution in our state, we’re one step closer to achieving healthier neighborhoods and cleaner air for all Californians," Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement.

The regulations for trucks and buses apply to fleets of 50 or more vehicles or to companies with at least $50 million in gross revenue.

Trucks used for drayage at ports and local government vehicles at the end of their useful operating life will need to be replaced as soon as Jan. 1, when the new rule takes effect. Other vehicles must follow a schedule that ranges from 2035-2042.

Weaning commercial truck fleets off fossil fuels is critical to California’s plan to stamp out nearly all greenhouse gas emissions by 2045.

The board approved the rules despite industry complaints that electric models are still hard to come by and charging is even more difficult, with industries regularly waiting years for utilities to provide electricity for charging infrastructure and other needs.

Board Chair Liane Randolph acknowledged the challenges but said the rules are meant to drive the needed changes.

Randolph called the rules “transformative,” adding, “we all know there's a lot of challenges. But those challenges aren't going to be tackled unless we move forward. No one is going to build infrastructure in the abstract.”

The new rules follow earlier regulatory packages including the Advanced Clean Trucks rule, which requires manufacturers to transition from combustion to zero-emissions engines, and the state’s requirement that 100 percent of new cars and light trucks sold in California be zero-emissions by 2035.

Gov. Gavin Newsom and the state Legislature established the targets to try to help avert some of the worst effects of climate change. Both the Advanced Clean Fleets rule and the railroad rule will require approval from the federal government, and both rules could face legal challenges.

Similar rules have already been adopted by other states, and California’s success or failure will influence how broadly and how quickly states move to phase out combustion engines.