In 2016, California signed SB-32 into law, which set standards for statewide greenhouse gas emissions depending on the year. One of these standards was to make greenhouse gas emissions be at the same level in 2020 as it was in 1990.
There is no avoiding the fact that vehicles are a contributing factor to total greenhouse emissions, and as such the trucking industry is a prime target for California to make some emission cuts. What has California done to achieve its goal?
Flat Natural Gas Tax Rate
With diesel fuel, trucking companies have to keep track of miles driven and pay through the International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA). For drivers in California that use compressed natural gas or liquid natural gas, they can opt to pay for a sticker at a flat rate, independent of miles driven.
Parking Incentive Programs
The California Department of General Services and California Department of Transportation are working on creating benefits to those driving cleaner vehicles in their public lots, including reduced parking fees, reserved spots, refueling stations, and more. Having a big rig powered by electricity can indirectly increase your chances of finding a viable parking spot as you travel through the Golden State.
High Occupancy Vehicle Exemption
Vehicles meeting specified California and federal emissions standards can obtain a sticker that allows them to ride in the carpool lane without the need for an additional body in the car. Driving in the carpool lane, especially during peak traffic hours, can save time and stress. This benefit is ending soon, however: stickers handed out after 2019 all expire at the end of 2022, so get it while it lasts.
Rebates and Grants
When it comes to the United States and Canada, California alone provides 100 of the 300 different incentives for low-to-no emission vehicles. These include grants, rebates, and tax incentives of up to $1 billion annually. These cashback programs can help mitigate what would otherwise be a higher cost of purchasing these vehicles.
The South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) requires fleets with 15 or more trucks that contract with public entities in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside, and Orange counties must use non-diesel vehicles. For 18-wheelers, this generally means natural gas or electricity. Having a large fleet that uses these specialized vehicles will give you a competitive advantage in obtaining contracts from governmental organizations in those four counties.
California is the most populous state in the country, and it uses this clout to help exert influence on the transportation industry due to its citizens’ higher total demand for delivered goods. California also knows that heavy-duty trucks are rarely confined to one state, and knows that convincing truckers to obtain vehicles that meet or exceed their own standards will have its reduced emission benefits carry over across other states, and perhaps other countries. Whether or not California reaches its goals outlined in SB-32 is currently unseen, but it is clear that they are putting in a good effort on making them a reality.