The California Air Resources Board (“CARB”) is calling their stringent new emissions standards a win for environmental justice. However, opponents of the new regulations see the regulations as expensive and unrealistic in a time where the trucking industry is facing enough economic challenges.

On August 27, 2020, CARB approved a multi-pronged regulations aimed at heavy-duty diesel trucks to significantly reduce their NOx emissions. The “Heavy-Duty Low NOx Omnibus Regulation” requires manufacturers to comply with stricter emissions standards, drastically modify new engine testing procedures, and extend engine warranties. According to the CARB website, a key measure in the regulation is the establishment of low NOx engine emission standards that result in a 90 percent reduction in NOx emissions compared to the emissions of today’s diesel engines. The emissions standards will be phased in requiring a 70 percent cut in NOx emissions compared to the current standard by 2024, and a 90 percent cut by 2027.

The Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association called the new regulations “cost-prohibitive, infeasible, unenforceable and illegal.” The association believes the new regulations to be a serious existential threat to the California heavy-duty truck market that has already been hit hard by the economic recession caused by COVID-19. The President of the Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association, Jed Mandel, believes that the regulation will hurt the California economy and make the trucking industry less safe. Mandel stated, “Instead of purchasing expensive, complicated and unproven new vehicles in California, truck operators and freight shippers are likely to maintain old trucks longer and seek solutions outside the state.”

In support of the new regulation, CARB acknowledged the cost to the California trucking industry but remained stalwart in the proposition that the industry needs to move forward to meet the needs of environmental justice. In fact, the CARB board estimated the new regulation would cost the trucking industry approximately $2.2 billion to implement. However, the board argued that this cost is reasonable and will be covered by state grants.

While there has yet to be a formal legal challenge to the new regulation, we can expect a coalition of industry leaders to mount a strong opposition. In the Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association’s 324-page document submitted in opposition of the new regulation, the association concludes “effective and implementable alternatives exist to the cost-prohibitive and unworkable Omnibus Low-NOx regulation” raising potential constitutionality concerns over the rule.

Though it has yet to be seen how the new regulation will play out in the coming years, the regulation certainly poses another obstacle for the California trucking industry.