CTA files lawsuit to block CARB's diesel truck ban

user-gravatar Headshot
Updated Oct 19, 2023

The California Trucking Association has filed a lawsuit in a federal court seeking to halt the California Air Resources Board’s latest regulations aimed at banning diesel trucks in the state.

The lawsuit challenges CARB’s Advanced Clean Fleets (ACF) rule that requires all new medium- and heavy-duty vehicles sold or registered in the state to be zero-emission by 2036 and requires all trucks to be zero-emission by 2042. The rule also requires that, beginning in 2024, only zero-emission drayage trucks can newly register in the CARB online system. Legacy internal combustion engine trucks will be allowed to continue operating, as long as they register in CARB’s system by Dec. 31, 2023, through their minimum useful life.

In its lawsuit filed Oct. 16 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, CTA acknowledged that “CARB's efforts are in service to the laudable goal of decreasing tailpipe emissions from commercial vehicles,” but added that the ACF regulations “represent a vast overreach that threatens the security and predictability of the nation's goods movement industry.”

CTA CEO Eric Sauer said in a press release that while his organization and the state’s trucking industry in general have "been supportive of cleaner transportation and adopted new technologies to minimize emissions, regardless of costs,” the ACF rule goes too far.

“Our objection to the Advanced Clean Fleets regulation comes down to the lack of planning and coordination with other state agencies, nonexistent infrastructure, unprecedented demands on the state power grid, the wildly unrealistic timeline mandated by CARB for phasing into medium- and heavy-duty truck technology that is still in development and a clearly unachievable regulation that is in direct violation of multiple federal laws," Sauer added.

CARB said Wednesday afternoon that it does not comment on pending litigation. 

[Related: California bans diesel truck sales as of 2036]

The lawsuit received support from the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and the American Trucking Associations.

Partner Insights
Information to advance your business from industry suppliers

"Truckers are no different from everyone else in wanting cleaner air, but there are ways to make improvements without costly, burdensome and unachievable regulations," OOIDA said in a statement Wednesday. "These overreaching rules always prove to be problematic for small business truckers who are not in a position to contend with untested and unreliable equipment, while their larger counterparts can more easily mitigate those issues with a larger fleet of trucks available to keep goods moving."

ATA also noted its long-standing support for improving truck emissions, but said the ACF rule is unachievable.  

“Like CTA, the American Trucking Associations has a long history of supporting improvements in truck emissions resulting in dramatic reductions and is committed to further progress,” said ATA President and CEO Chris Spear. “California’s Advanced Clean Fleets rule is completely divorced from reality, with unachievable requirements and timelines that will grind the supply chain to a halt in California and elsewhere. More to the point, the rule vastly exceeds the state’s legal authority. We fully support CTA’s effort to stop it in its tracks.”

In the lawsuit, CTA said that “to avoid the balkanization of emission and regulatory standards” across “innumerable jurisdictions,” Congress has enacted two “preemptions of local rules that relate to the control of emissions from trucks or that relate to the price, routes, or services those trucks provide” -- the Clean Air Act (CAA) and the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act (F4A).

The group added that “because ACF has the purpose and effect of interfering with interstate freight operations, facilities and equipment, and creates a fleet fuel program,” it’s preempted by both the CAA and F4A.

[Related: CARB, truck and engine OEMs enter partnership to meet clean air goals]

The lawsuit also noted that ACF applies to trucks outside of California because, “by merely making one trip into California, a truck becomes part of the ‘California fleet’ of a covered owner and is subject to ACF even if that truck was sold and registered in another state.”

“ACF's extraterritorial effect will burden interstate commerce and impact both national and international trade, leading to the potential loss of jobs due to the transfer of goods to other U.S. ports, a marked increase in the cost of moving freight and goods nationally and internationally, and potential supply chain disruptions,” CTA added in the lawsuit.

In arguing for both a preliminary and permanent injunction barring the implementation and enforcement of ACF, CTA acknowledged that the Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to grant a waiver to California for CAA preemption but said it has yet to do so.

Additionally, CTA claimed that CARB cannot begin enforcing ACF without such a waiver, despite CARB’s efforts to begin enforcement on Jan. 1, 2024. CTA also claimed that EPA cannot grant a waiver because ACF doesn’t meet the requirements for a waiver under the CAA.

[Related: CTA's Shimoda: Start working on CARB regulation requirements now]

Regarding F4A preemption, CTA said the rule would impact the prices, routes or services of motor carriers because carriers “will be required to change their prices, routes, and services in order to comply with ACF and will be required to offer services (use of ZEVs) which the market does not compel. Thus, motor carriers cannot freely contract for the provisions of freight services because ACF compels changes to prices, routes, and services.”

CTA also alleged in the lawsuit that CARB’s rule violates the Dormant Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which prevents states from enforcing state laws that burden interstate commerce.

“CTA and its members will suffer irreparable harm if CARB's implementation and enforcement of ACF is not enjoined,” CTA concluded. “The impact of ACF on the efficiency of the nation's logistics system is significant, and the economic loss attributable to delays, equipment shortages, and interference with dispatching and the efficient allocation of freight vehicles is not capable of clear calculation. The threat of facing substantial, and perpetually ongoing economic sanctions for noncompliance also threatens to cause CTA's members and other local and interstate commercial transportation and logistics operators doing business in California – together with their customers and the public-at-large – irreparable harm.”

[Related: California's aggressive ZEV mandate backfiring at the ports?]