California businesses are feeling the impact of regulations that will require all new light- and medium-duty vehicles sold in the state to be zero-emission vehicles by 2035.
Beginning this year, the Golden State is banning vehicles over 14,000 pounds and built before 2010 from operating on its roads. Additional restrictions kick in next year.
And more states are poised to follow California in reducing diesel exhaust, which is blamed for 70% of the cancer risk from airborne toxins. Requirements to update diesel fleets to meet clean air regulation standards are going to be a costly ordeal for bus and motorcoach companies that are climbing out of the debt many incurred to stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“With its back to the wall during the COVID pandemic, the motorcoach industry was scarcely aware that many states were adopting all or part of regulations promulgated by the California Air Resource Board, otherwise known as CARB,” said Ken Presley, Vice President, Legislative and Regulatory Affairs and Industry Relations for the United Motorcoach Association.
How many will follow California’s lead?
CARB’s standards for heavy-duty diesel engines in model years 2024-26 appear to be similar to the EPA’s rules for model year 2027, and there is some indication that engine manufacturers are not ready. If that is accurate, there may be a one- to three-year drought for some companies in affected states trying to take delivery of new buses and motorcoaches, according to Presley.
CARB reports these states have opted into at least part of the CARB regulations: Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Oregon, New Jersey, Minnesota (model year 2025), Nevada (model year 2025), New Mexico (model year 2026), Vermont, Virginia (model year 2025), and Washington.
Some of these states may have only adopted the automobile portion of the CARB rules, and not the restrictions on heavy-duty vehicles like motorcoaches. In many cases, the effective date for heavy duty restrictions is later than in California.
Effort to block Pennsylvania move
Because of the efforts of the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection suspended enforcement of the CARB warranty and emissions rule through July 31, 2023.
The Pennsylvania Senate passed a bill last month blocking the Department of Environmental Protection from enforcing CARB rules under the heavy-duty emissions program. However, the bill faces an uncertain future in the state House.
“President Trump tried to revoke CARB’s autonomous authority and consolidate all 50 states under unified EPA regulations,” said Presley. “Court battles ensued and survived the Trump Administration. President Biden reversed the order, ending the litigation, but leaving CARB intact to continue and grow.”
While much remains unclear, Presley suggests that for operators whose plans include the acquisition of new buses or motorcoaches in model years 2024-26, now is the time to have a conversation with their manufacturer representatives.
UMA is gathering additional information from regulators, manufacturers, and operators and will keep members informed.
“At this point, this is thought to be a state issue. There may be opportunities for state or regional associations domiciled in CARB opt-in states to seek assistance from their state regulators and legislators,” Presley said.