California’s New Clean Air Program Leans on Trucking Industry

California’s New Clean Air Program Leans on Trucking Industry

California air quality regulators have outlined plans for the trucking industry to bear a large share of

the burden for cleaning up the dirtiest air in the nation.

In proposed regulations revealed this week, the staff of the California Air Resources Board proposed

implementation of a low-NOx engine standard calling for between 100,000 and 150,000 new heavy-

duty trucks with special engines to be in use in California by 2023.

So far, only one company, Cummins Westport, builds a low-NOx engine that meets the proposed

nitrates of oxygen emissions standard of 0.02 grams per horsepower-mile of operation – a 90

percent reduction from the present standard of 0.2 grams.

The 8.9-liter engine uses compressed natural gas as a fuel and is intended to replace diesels in larger

medium-duty trucks. Cummins Westport also is developing low-NOx CNG engines for smaller

medium-duty trucks and for some heavy-duty truck applications.

Several other engine manufacturers also are working on low-NOx systems.

Many of the proposals were developed in concert with the recently released California Sustainable

Freight Action Plan and are intended to help implement that plan.

The plan, which sets up timelines for regulatory action and sets implementation schedules, is short

on specifics: The details are to come as individual programs are brought to the air board directors

over the next few years.

The strategy proposal won lukewarm praise from the California Trucking Association. In the past,

regulations for cleaner truck emissions have forced trucking operators to spend hundreds of millions

of dollars retrofitting existing vehicles.

Other new equipment policies – specifically increasing use of zero-emission vehicles in short-

distance freight movement such as port shuttling and so-called last-mile delivery situations – “are a

stretch because none of those vehicles exist for commercial use right now,” Shimoda said.

The trucking association would be talking about those proposals with the Air Resources Board staff

before specific implementation deadlines are drawn up, Shimoda said.

Environmental groups are generally supportive of the plan, although several said it doesn’t push

hard enough to promote use of zero-emissions vehicles.

The Union of Concerned Scientists wants “a clear signal” that incentives will be used to get freight-

moving tractors in the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles transitioned to electric power as soon as

possible, said Don Anair, the group’s clean vehicles program research director.

“There are a lot of measures in this mobile sources strategy plan that we support, but we think they

need to go further,” said Bill Magavern, policy director for the Coalition for Clean Air. “There’s not

enough in this to get us healthy air in the South Coast,” one of the state’s worst regions for air


The plan relies on zero-emissions vehicles for short-range freight movement. Magavern said he

would also like to see the use of near-zero emissions equipment with low carbon, renewable fuels

when zero-emissions vehicles are not available.

The strategy proposal addresses efforts to slash emissions from all types of mobile sources including

passenger vehicles, commercial trucks and off-road equipment.

Heavy-duty trucks account for 33 percent of the state’s NOx emissions, the proposal says, along with

26 percent of diesel particulate matter that contributes to lung disease and other respiratory

ailments. Trucks also are a “significant source” of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the


It focuses on the two most heavily impacted regions of the state: the South Coast Air Basin,

encompassing most of Southern California, and the agricultural San Joaquin Valley.

Truck-oriented strategies in the proposal include:

Development this year of clean air certification standards for hybrid truck engines.

Tightening exhaust “smoke” limits for required annual diesel inspections and periodic on-road

heavy-duty vehicle inspections.

Increasing durability requirements necessary for California certification of new truck engines.

Petitioning the federal Environmental Protection Agency to propose a national low-NOx engine

standard of 0.02 grams by 2017 – for implementation beginning with 2023 model-year trucks and, if

the EPA doesn’t do so, to prepare California-only standards with the same timeline.

Modifying California’s greenhouse gas emissions requirements for heavy trucks to harmonize with

the federal “Phase 2” truck emission regulations expected to be published this summer. The

proposal notes that California regulations may be more stringent in some areas than the federal

rules because of the state’s “unique” air quality challenges. The only example provided was the

potential for “layering on” additional California-specific aerodynamic requirements for truck trailers.

Developing an incentive-based truck emissions reduction plan by 2018 and ensuring that existing

clean vehicle incentive funding for trucks be used to help truck operators replace older, dirtier


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