17 state coalition sues to block California rule requiring ZEV trucking

3 min read

(The Center Square) – A 17 state coalition led by Nebraska is suing California for creating ZEV standards for trucking fleets that set down even a single tire in California, saying the state’s rule violates the Constitution’s Commerce Clause.

California’s Advanced Clean Fleets regulation requires that commercial vehicles, even heavy-duty big rigs, be zero emission by 2042, and was developed by the California Air Resources Board, which is a regulatory agency, not a legislative body. CARB banned the sale of internal combustion light vehicles, including cars, in 2035, and of bigger trucks starting in 2036.

ACF, approved in April of last year, would require a CARB-estimated 1.7 million ZEV trucks on the road by 2050, with drayage trucks — the type of big trucks carrying goods from ports and railways— required to be ZEVs by 2035.

“With California’s international ports being a hub for much of the nation’s imports, they could disrupt the supply chain, slow transport of goods, and raise prices,” says the lawsuit. “While California can regulate emissions, they cannot regulate the emissions of vehicles moving from state-to-state without the approval of Congress under the Congressional Commerce Clause.”

37% of all American imports and 22% of exports go through the Port of Los Angeles alone, suggesting the impact of changes to California trucking laws could have major cost implications for the entire nation, especially given that approximately 7% of the cost of a given good is from transportation.

According to the lawsuit any “high priority” truck fleet that owns or operates any number of trucks in California and either generates $50 million in total national revenue or has more than 50 vehicles in its fleet must start buying only ZEV trucks for California use in 2024, and start retiring their internal-combustion powered trucks operating in California in 2025. Any “high priority” fleet that operates one truck for even one day in California must comply with new recordkeeping rules for California as well. All new drayage trucks in California starting in 2024 must be ZEVs as well.

“Advanced Clean Fleets’ significant costs will force some fleet companies out of business or out of the Nation’s largest State, which will strain the supply chain across the United States,” the lawsuit continues.

The 17 states claim they have standing for the case due to harm to tax revenue, harm to roads from heavier battery-electric trucks, increased demand for electricity to charge such trucks, and threats to states’ sovereign economic interests.

“I’m suing California to stand up for Iowa truckers,” said Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird in a statement. “One out of 13 Iowans works in trucking. And unlike California, we support our truckers. I am suing to hit the brakes on California’s unrealistic electric-semi mandate that will kill jobs, crush our supply chain, hurt farmers, and wipe out the American trucking industry as we know it. California does not get to tell Iowa truckers what to do.”

The lawsuit seeks relief via injunction due to unconstitutionality under the Commerce Clause and will likely have a hearing in the coming months. California Attorney General Rob Bonta, a respondent in the case, is yet to comment on the case.