The state government of California is in a unique position to enforce stricter rules related to air pollution. Circumstances at the time the federal Clean Air Act was passed mean the state can continue to set its own emissions standards and other rules.
Unfortunately, the clean truck rule will mean a wide variety of drawbacks for trucking in general and the drayage industry in particular.
Let’s take a closer look at this rule and how it’s affecting drayage companies, importers, and exporters alike.
Understanding California Clean Air Act Restrictions
The California Air Resources Board (CARB) explains that the state has waivers in place for federal clean air and climate programs. This is the case for the original Clean Air Act, Clean Air Act amendments, and similar federal government. Instead of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
California had already started regulating emissions when federal laws were first put in place. This led to a waiver for the state, which allows it to set its own standards. And those standards are almost always more stringent than the federal equivalent.
Who Administers the Clean Air Act in California?
CARB, the state air resources board, sets air quality standards and similar requirements thanks to the state’s Clean Air Act (CAA) waiver.
A Very Brief and Practical Clean Air Act summary for California
The state and the CAA waiver empower CARB to:
- Set emissions reduction standards and ambient air quality standards
- Create policies related to climate change
- Protect public health, by taking action to reduce the public’s exposure to harmful sources of air pollution
The most relevant and influential recent action by CARB for trucking companies, intermodal ports, and importers and exporters is the clean truck rule.
California Clean Truck Rule Starts in 2023
Land Line explains that, in general, diesel trucks with an engine older than the model year 2010 can no longer legally operate on public roads in California. The requirement went into effect on Jan. 1, 2023.
This rule applies to heavy and light trucks — any truck with a gross vehicle weight of 14,001 lbs. or higher.
There are only two exceptions to this California Clean Air Act restriction, according to KTLA:
- Pre-2010 diesel trucks refitted with new, compliant engines can continue to operate
- Trucks operated for fewer than 1,000 miles per year can still be used
This is the last phase of a staged rollout of stricter emissions standards. Any diesel truck engine manufactured after 2010 meets the final requirements of the rule. That’s good news for trucking companies, drivers, and the businesses that rely on them moving forward.
However, more rules will soon be in place. These regulations have still placed a heavy burden on the drayage industry.
How Does the Clean Air Act Influence Drayage Trucking?
Rules proposed by CARB would require all drayage trucks with combustion engines to be registered with the regulator by Dec. 31, 2023. From Jan. 1, 2024, onward, only zero-emission trucks would be allowed for new registration.
While not yet finalized, these rules are in line with the state’s overall goal of allowing only new vehicles that meet a zero-emission standard for sale by 2035.
The effect of these rules (both implemented and proposed) represents a substantial burden for the drayage trucking industry. The cost of retrofitting existing trucks with compliant engines is an obvious concern. So is the quick transition to only allowing zero-emission drayage trucks to register with CARB starting in 2024.
Keep in mind that the drayage industry is a crucial, irreplaceable part of modern intermodal freight transport. These regulations won’t cause drayage to disappear as a service. However, they could lead to increased costs for importers and exporters.
With additional regulations that must be followed and the price tag that comes along with them, the market for drayage can be harmed.
How Could my Business be Affected by Clean Air Act Restrictions?
Even with the strict engine standards now in effect, drayage trucking companies are still serving their customers. The critical task of delivering intermodal containers to and from ports is still reliably completed.
Your business shouldn’t worry about significant delays at ports due to a lack of available trucks. There are plenty of 2010 and newer diesel trucks in operation. Additionally, many fleet operators have retrofitted older vehicles already.
KTLA shared a specific figure from CARB: 1.58 non-compliant vehicles have met the new standard through engine replacement.
However, the requirements mean additional costs for all drayage trucking companies. Replacing an engine with no mechanical problems or other defects is an additional cost. There’s simply no way around it. Even for trucks with engines reaching the end of their useful life, the rule required replacement on a faster schedule — and substantial investment — than would otherwise be needed.
That reality is driving up costs for drayage services and intermodal container transport over the road in general. It’s not an issue of budgets for a specific company or for certain types of drayage. The change is impacting the entire industry.
In the face of this turmoil, finding a reliable partner to help address your drayage needs is especially important. Other issues, like the intermodal chassis shortage, also make operations more difficult. But successful drayage providers are finding a way forward.
Drayage companies that find ways to adapt, and to do so while keeping costs for their customers reasonable, are becoming especially valuable for importers and exporters.
A Drayage Partner Your Business Can Depend On
Iraheta Bros. connects your business with the Port of Oakland. We specialize in food-grade containers, maintaining the safety and quality of your products during transport to and from your facility. We haul dry containers, too — we’ll get any container where you need it to be.
Even in the face of a complex, costly, and rapidly changing regulatory environment, we’re here to help you. Our approach to customer service, from our innovative transportation management system to our transparent billing process, delivers a better experience for all of our partners.