Sacramento, catch up!

Setting the stage for clean alternative vehicles in California.


By Thomas Lawson


For decades, Californians have been pushed and prodded in the State’s race to have us upgrade our personal and household infrastructures. Low-flow water systems to conserve resources, solar panel requirements to cut energy consumption, and increased gas taxes to help incentivize the use of public transportation and alternative-fuel vehicles. Yes Sacramento, we hear you and we are changing.


Not surprisingly, businesses in California are changing their infrastructures as well. California truckers now drive upgraded, and more expensive, diesel trucks; and earlier this week UPS announced the purchase of 400 new heavy-duty semis adding to its already massive fleet of trucks and vans, all powered by natural gas. Other companies are exploring hydrogen and electric trucks, and even the Sacramento Municipal Utility District has rolled out an incentive program for Uber drivers to use electric vehicles. Certainly, it’s a trend that legislators and regulators have been hoping for – new technologies to meet the challenges of a new, cleaner environment.


Now that we’ve upgraded our household infrastructures, and even businesses have changed their infrastructures, California needs to catch up in order to keep these pro-environmental actions moving. Assembly Bill 2061 (Frazier, Gipson) would do just that and approve a critical weight exemption for clean-air trucks on California’s highways.


This isn’t a weight exemption so companies can stuff their trailers with additional merchandise. This would simply accommodate the new fuel delivery systems in these trucks, which are heavier than their gasoline and diesel cousins – just as electric cars on our highways today are heavier than cars using traditional, internal combustion engines. AB 2061 recognizes that if California wants businesses to adopt new clean technologies, then the Legislature should be willing to update regulations for those businesses that embrace what they and state regulators have been pushing for all along.


And California would be far from the first to welcome these clean-air trucks onto its highways. Since President Obama signed legislation in 2015, allowing for increased weight limits to encourage clean-air vehicles, 27 states have adopted the new federal standard, including Alabama, Oregon, Washington, Colorado and New York.


AB 2061 allows for just a 2.5 percent increase in truck weight, which would be restricted to clean-air trucks only. These clean-air trucks prevent thousands of tons of carbon and greenhouse gases (GHG) from entering our atmosphere, AB 2061 is the kind of solid “investment” we need to make.


A recent statewide survey commissioned by the Coalition for Clean Air shows that there is overwhelming support for policies that reduce pollution from commercial vehicles. Statewide, 74 percent of respondents supported public policies that would require companies to transition to clean-air commercial vehicles. AB 2061 is one of the gateway pieces of legislation that will make it easier for those policies to be enacted and clean-air vehicles to operate in California.


How can California lead the nation in climate change efforts and GHG reductions if we’re willing to place roadblocks – both literally and figuratively – in front of the very clean-air vehicles we want our businesses to use?

These companies that have converted to clean-air vehicles are now penalized by being forced to reduce their carrying capacities in order to comply with weight limits placed on their clean-air trucks. This has led to more truck trips being taken and more vehicles on our roads. More congestion and more wear and tear. The good news is, despite these additional routes taken, there’s not much more GHG in our atmosphere because these are the “good guys” who we’re penalizing.


AB 2061 will align our clean-air regulations with the clean-air vision that most Californians share. Without it, we’ll be shutting the door to those businesses willing to invest in a cleaner future and exposing California’s environmental ethos as simply a utopian aspiration rather than important real-world public policy.

© 2018 by the Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition of California