CARB Announces Plan to Expand Zero-Emission Requirement for Transport Refrigeration Units

Key Takeaways

  • What happened: On January 22, 2021, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) announced plans to impose zero-emission requirements on truck, trailer, railcar, and shipping container Transport Refrigeration Units (TRUs) sold or operated in California.
  • Who’s impacted: (1) Manufacturers and distributors of TRUs sold in California; (2) nationwide operators of long-haul tractor trailer TRUs and railcar TRUs that may enter California; and (3) owners of truck terminal facilities in California where TRUs are operated.
  • Actions that stakeholders should take: Stakeholders should look out for upcoming CARB notice-and-comment opportunities and provide input on the proposed regulations.  TRU manufacturers and operators with equipment that may be sold or operated in California should examine the proposed requirements and prepare to comply, or consider challenging the anticipated rules.  Stakeholders should also monitor other Clean Air Act Section 177 states who may elect to adopt the new California standards.

On September 23, 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom issued Executive Order N-79-20 directing CARB to develop policies to achieve zero emissions in off-road vehicles, equipment, and operations by 2035.  The order sets a goal for all in-state sales of new passenger vehicles and trucks in California to be zero emission by 2035 and directs CARB to develop and propose regulations to meet this target.

For fleet operators, the order requires CARB to promulgate regulations for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, with the goal of 100% of the fleet transitioning to zero-emission vehicles by 2045 and all drayage trucks being zero emission by 2035.  Correspondingly, the order also instructs CARB to develop strategies in coordination with other state agencies, local agencies, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to transition off-road vehicles and equipment operations in California to achieve zero emissions by 2035.

On January 22, 2021, CARB staff issued an “Additional Information Document,” which identifies new planned requirements for mobile source TRUs under the Executive Order.  The document explains that CARB’s initial draft concept for TRUs applied only to truck TRUs, and under the Executive Order will be expanded to other TRU categories, including TRUs for domestic shipping containers, railcars, trailers, and generator sets.  CARB staff intends to propose a first round of amendments to the TRU Airborne Toxic Control Measure (ATCM) in the fall of 2021.Significantly, these amendments will capture both operators and manufacturers. The requirements for operators and their fleets will be limited not only to trucks operated in California, but to trucks based outside of California. Specifically, CARB has indicated that it intends to address the following key regulatory elements:

  • Deadlines for TRU Manufacturers. By December 31, 2022:
    • Newly manufactured truck, trailer, and domestic shipping container TRUs to use refrigerant with a Global Warming Potential (GWP) less than or equal to 2,200, and;
    • All model year 2023 and newer trailer, domestic shipping container, railcar, and generator set TRUs to meet Ultra-Low-Emission standards.
  • Deadlines for TRU Owners and Operators. By December 31, 2023:
    • Facility owners to register with CARB, pay fees, and submit reports to CARB;
    • TRU owners to register all TRUs, including those based outside of California, pay fees, and attach a CARB compliance label to TRUs;
    • Truck TRU fleets to transition to zero emissions at 15% per year for 7 years, and;
    • All truck TRUs operating in California to be zero emission by December 31, 2029. 

CARB may give compliance extensions to truck TRUs if manufacturers cannot meet the December 31, 2029 target to become zero emission due to infrastructure delays.  CARB plans to address trailer, railcar, and shipping container TRUs in a second rulemaking in 2023-2024. 

Beveridge & Diamond’s Mobile Source Emissions group, including lawyers in our San Francisco office with deep knowledge of CARB regulations, has experience in all aspects of mobile source emissions regulation. For over two decades, the firm has engaged in a host of matters involving rulemakings, regulatory interpretation, compliance, enforcement, litigation, and advocacy with respect to automobiles and light-duty vehicles (gasoline, diesel, and electric), heavy-duty vehicles, non-road engines and equipment/vehicles, and commercial aircraft and marine engines. For more information, please contact the authors.