Unloading a load of trucks at the Port of Long Beach in Long Beach. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)
You hit the “Buy” button and expect the items in your cart—clothing, household goods, work supplies, food, and medicine—to arrive within days. Have you thought about the people and vehicles responsible for delivering those essential goods to your doorstep? Hard-working truck drivers seem to be an afterthought for California regulators who are focused on irrationally cutting emissions with initial mandates in the state.
The California Air Resources Board (CARB) is preparing to vote on a rule that would phase out the truck fleet we depend on in favor of “zero emissions” trucks that cost nearly $400,000 per vehicle. That’s twice the price of fuel-efficient trucks on the market today.
Zero-emission trucks also require charging infrastructure that far exceeds the current and projected realities of California’s power grid. Gov. Gavin Newsom told Californians not to charge electric cars during certain days and times last fall because of the threat of a “meltdown.” This is the reality for which this CARB proposal positions us.
Have you ever thought about how to respond to an employee or colleague telling you, “I can’t get it to work because I can’t ship my car right now” or an e-commerce company telling you, “We can’t deliver your order on time because our trucks can’t ship now”? Fears are an afterthought.
The proposal put forward by CARB mandates that more than 518,000 zero-emission trucks be in use by 2040 and up to 1.5 million zero-emission trucks by 2050. To reach these numbers, approximately 38% of new truck sales must be zero-emissions by 2040 …these are ambitious and well-intentioned goals that we have no doubt California will achieve in due course. But there is no sense in rushing the process and setting ourselves up for failure. We haven’t even reached the projected truck-by-car sales numbers. Zero-emission new car sales account for just 7% of purchases nationwide and 15% of purchases in California.
We face more dire consequences than late deliveries and empty supermarket shelves. The rule could hamper supply chain operations at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, where more than 2,000 trucks will have to be replaced or converted over the next two years. Zero-emissions port trucks alone would require 100 times more cargo capacity than we have today. If they are not running properly due to unreliable technology or unavailable chargers, we can face shortages in the power supplies and critical water filtration that keep our homes warm, transportation systems moving, and drinking water clean.
Early adoption of this rule would dismantle the systems that keep the nation functioning. And all for what? California already has the most stringent environmental standards in the world. We have the lowest carbon emissions per capita in the United States. Sensible Californians up and down the state fear that their daily needs will take a back seat to lofty zero-emissions goals. Economic flexibility and technological feasibility have been neglected at the heart of the matter.
Impacting jobs must be our top priority. Disrupting the country’s nearly $900 billion trucking industry, which transports more than 72% of the country’s freight, could take other essential jobs off the road. One in three jobs in Southern California is supported by industries that depend on the movement of goods such as warehousing, manufacturing, and agriculture. If goods do not move, operations in other sectors may come to a screeching halt.
The Los Angeles County Business Confederation, widely known as BizFed, is proud to unite more than 240 diverse business organizations representing 420,000 employers with 5 million employees in Southern California. We are not afraid to speak up when people in power pursue policies that threaten livelihoods.
We appeal to regulators to remember that climate progress is not a zero-sum game. Near-zero options that can significantly reduce emissions, such as natural gas-powered vehicles, should not be excluded from the equation. It would also be wise for regulators to encourage adoption of smaller, zero-emission trucks for last-mile deliveries.
Let’s focus on possible solutions. Californians should expect more than on-time deliveries. We expect new policies to support the integrity of our supply chain and regulators to hear all voices.
Tracy Hernandez is the Executive Founder of the Los Angeles County Business Confederation, widely known as BizFed.