Righting the Ship: From Job Killer to Support

Legislators recently took aim at diesel trucks with a series of bills that would impact the cost of goods across California. Billed as “Ditching Dirty Diesel” and “Clean Trucks, Clean Air,” SB 44 (Skinner; D-Berkeley) and SB 210 (Leyva; D-Chino) created regulatory hurdles, cost increases, and burdens that would make transportation of California products costly, risk losses of crops and livestock, and insert uncertainty into the future of cargo transit operations. CalChamber opposed these bills, tagging SB 44 as a Job Killer, but with amendments, has now moved to support.

SB 44 sought to require that the California Air Resources Board (CARB) develop a strategy by 2021 for reducing emissions from motor vehicles by 40 percent by 2030, and 80 percent by 2050. The bill’s findings suggest that transportation represents 50 percent of statewide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions but went on to target medium- and heavy-duty trucks only. As originally drafted, the trucking industry would be shouldering the full burden of reducing GHGs from the entire transportation sector in order to meet the state’s overall GHG goals. Because such a disconnect would inevitably require significant reductions in the cargo transit sector, CalChamber labeled this bill a JOB KILLER for 2019.

SB 210 requires CARB to develop a “smog-check” program for diesel trucks, and, as currently drafted, does not contain sufficient time for correcting violations. It also provides CARB with a blank check to impose any “reasonable fee” upon the industry. Because amendments are needed to control costs and create predictability for the trucking industry, CalChamber is Opposed Unless Amended to this bill.

The findings in these bills were misleading, suggesting that the trucking industry is responsible for all air quality concerns, and requiring one industry to reduce emissions for the entire transportation sector. Both bills failed to recognize the many advancements already undertaken by the diesel industry, which have resulted in diesel vehicles that are 97 percent cleaner today than in 1990, and upgrades to new trucks that are required by 2023.

The introduction of new bills and new regulations each year continues to cause uncertainty in the marketplace. This begs the question: How can a company anticipate its needs years in the future when the goal posts are constantly changing? That answer requires balancing climate goals with economic stability.

SB 44 Amended to Support

Because of this uncertainty, the Diesel Technology Forum pointed out that California ranks 43rd among the 50 states in adoption of new technology, with 6 out of every 10 trucks older than 2010 models. This is largely representative of the choice of fleet operators to delay investments for fear of an ever-changing regulatory environment. California is currently only slightly above the national average of 36 percent for adoption of 2010 and newer technology. If the stick approach were effective, one would expect that California would be at the front of this pack.

After discussions with the author’s office, CalChamber proposed the following amendments to the operative sections of the bill which require more balance in CARB’s evaluation of goals for the transportation sector:

  • Requiring that the goals be reasonably achievable, and requiring recommendations in lieu of set goals.
  • Requiring consistency with the California Sustainable Freight Action Plan administered by the Department of Transportation (DOT).
  • Consultation with the DOT, the State Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission, and the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, and collaboration with stakeholders.
  • Identification of policies that provide advantages to fleets that reduce greenhouse gas emissions earlier than required by law.

These amendments were ultimately adopted by the author. CalChamber supports approaches to reaching our ambitious climate goals that utilize carrots rather than sticks. This is especially evident in the diesel truck industry, where the stick approach, along with threats of ever-changing mandates, has created uncertainty and delayed adoption of cleaner technology.

Encourage Use of Incentives

 CalChamber supports the efforts of legislators to provide incentives for early adoption of clean fleet technology. On May 8, Assembly Member O’Donnell, with the support of Assembly Member Reyes, requested a multi-year commitment of greenhouse gas reduction funds for clean transportation technology. CalChamber looks forward to supporting efforts to find cost-effective and innovative ways for the business community to assist in meeting California’s ambitious climate goals.

Next up: How SB 210 can reach its own balance. Stay tuned.

Leah Silverthorn, Policy Advocate