With a chunk of drayage trucking capacity set to disappear in California at the end of the year, the state earlier this month rolled out the next steps it plans to take to get to a fully zero-emission drayage fleet by 2035.
The most pressing change occurring at the end of this year is that drayage trucks manufactured with an engine year model of 2007 to 2009 will no longer be permitted to operate in the state’s ports and railyards. Engines prior to that year already were banned.
Separately, the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) latest proposal would set a phaseout of older trucks through both a calendar and mileage approach. All of it points to meeting the goal of the sunset of the internal combustion engine in drayage in about 13 years, part of the state’s Clean Fleet Rule.
The more pressing question on the end-of-year phaseout of the engines between 2007 and 2009 model years is just what is going to mean for drayage capacity.
What constitutes a drayage truck? CARB, in material it prepared for a recent webinar, described it as an on-road vehicle more than 26,000 pounds that transgresses California’s seaports and railyards.
The scope of the looming capacity loss could be viewed as easy to calculate. But when you dig into the numbers, the issue is more complex.
While the rule impacts the entire state, the focus inevitably will fall on the gigantic ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
The Port of LA, in a recent presentation, identified the number of trucks that have utilized the two ports that would also fall under the 2007-2009 ban: 1,925 with an ’07 engine, 2,279 with an ’08 and 1,314 with an ’09. Adding all the vehicles listed by the port’s document on capacity yields a number just below 20,900. The number of vehicles to be removed from the capacity would be about 26% to 27%.
But the port also lists the frequency of the visits by engine year, which reveals that not all trucks are equal.
For example, of the 1,925 2007 engines, only 135 are listed as frequent visitors to the port. An infrequent truck is defined as performing less than 10 average moves per week. Between 10 and 20 moves is “semi-frequent” and more than 20 is “frequent.” Frequent visitors with 2008 engines totaled 179 vehicles and with 2009, it was 106.
So measuring a loss of capacity solely by the number of trucks may be quantitatively simple, but it’s more complicated on a qualitative basis.
For a truck with an engine of that vintage, there is one way the driver may be able to avoid the regulation, at least for a little while: Buy a new or used vehicle, even if it isn’t going to be delivered by the start of 2023.
Matt Schrap, CEO of the Harbor Trucking Association, which represents drayage truck operators in the LA/Long Beach port complex, said the rule is structured so that as long as drayage truck owners can show proof of purchase orders for new trucks by the end of the year, they can keep running their 2007 to 2009 engines. There is no deadline on how fast the truck must be delivered after that.
Drayage capacity after the new rule remains a question
With those numerical facts in hand, the question still remains: What will be the impact on capacity?
Schrap noted that one big factor is the strength of the freight market in 2023. “We could see a softening soon so it could coincide with that,” he said in an interview with FreightWaves. “Maybe it becomes a wash.”
He also expressed optimism that other vehicles were ready to step up and fill in the lost capacity. “We’ve got a good number of vehicles that are compliant,” Schrap said. “Will they be able to meet the demand? Probably not as quickly out of the gate. Does that impact turn times?”
And those companies or operators with the older engines have not been standing pat, according to Schrap. “There are vehicles that have been removed in that category and replaced by later model years,” he said.
“On the one hand, you have a capacity loss,” Schrap said in a sort of summing up of the landscape. Discussing the loss of capacity, he noted that it still leaves more than 70% of existing capacity in place.
“Will they be able to pick up the slack?” Schrap said. “I believe so. But will it cause longer time frames for picking up that cargo.”
Delay in the rule isn’t going to happen
One thing that is not going to happen is a delay in the rules. In a recent webinar the Harbor Trucking Association held for its members, Schrap displayed a recent email from a CARB official.
“We are not planning any blanket delays for the drayage trucks,” Cari Anderson, a CARB official, wrote in an email to Schrap. “As you know, the [current] drayage rule sunsets at the end of this year and those trucks will then have to comply with the [state’s] Truck and Bus Regulation.” It is that rule that requires the phaseout of engines prior to the 2010 model year.
Schap said during the webinar that he was displaying the email to counter chatter he had heard “on the ground” that there was going to be a delay. “I think they are going to stick to their guns on this one.”
The rule regarding the 2007-2009 vehicles is not new. It has been on the books since 2006, Schrap noted.
While the drayage rule looms for the end of the year, it is only one part of CARB’s
continuing efforts under the Clean Fleets Rule that directs the state’s actions.
Existing trucks face 13-year, 800,000-mile deadline
The next major regulation facing the drayage community was released earlier this month. Like the elimination of the engines prior to 2009, it takes steps to bring the drayage community toward the ultimate plan of having nothing but zero-emission vehicles in the drayage community by 2035.
That 2035 rule is considered phase two in the state’s requirements. Phase one is a multistep process that is designed to eventually get older and dirtier engines off the road under the state’s definition of “useful life.”
One requirement is more short term: New trucks coming into the system after Jan. 1, 2024, will need to be zero-emission vehicles, which means either battery or hydrogen.
But for existing trucks, there are several new rules after the start of 2024 that govern their “useful life.”
All trucks must visit a seaport or intermodal yard at least once a year to stay in compliance with the drayage law. If a truck doesn’t meet that requirement, it’s tossed out of the database of acceptable vehicles maintained by CARB.
As the years roll on, other vehicles will be removed from the system.
The new regulations introduced earlier this month put a cap on all drayage truck engines of 800,000 miles, with a maximum of 18 years from the engine year permitted to be listed in the state’s drayage registry. So if a truck after 18 years had just 700,000 miles on it, it would still be removed from the registry once it is recorded in the system as having reached 18 years. If it reached 800,000 miles before the 18-year window, it would also be removed.
If a truck is still on the road 13 years after its engine model year, the owner must begin to annually report mileage totals to CARB. If the 800,000 mile limit is recorded before 13 years, even with the absence of reporting, the truck is removed from the registry.
Schrap said drayage trucks that tend to move relatively close to a port or railyard will generally put in between 35,000 and 40,000 miles per year. Drayage trucks that move farther, like from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to the warehouses of California’s Inland Empire, might rack up 70,000 to 80,000 miles.
What if a company wants to purchase a zero-emission vehicle but is put off by the sticker price, which can easily be $400,000? The state may be able to help.
Its hybrid and zero-emission truck and bus voucher incentive project, in its latest offering, has approximately $40 million available for the purchase of zero-emission drayage vehicles. The program’s latest offering has just under $200 million available in total, beyond drayage, with the other portion of that money going to public and school buses. The latest offering commenced in March.