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California takes unprecedented step forward with shipping method of the future: 'It's a brand-new technology'

This is good news for many Californians.

This is good news for many Californians.

Photo Credit: iStock

California recently took another major leap to help reduce planet-warming pollution by pushing forward a ban on new registrations of diesel-powered trucks at its ports.

The ban was to go into effect on Jan. 1, but as of early January, the California Air Resources Board was delaying enforcement of the ban pending approval of the federal Environmental Protection Agency, per The New York Times. Reuters reported that the EPA is actively reviewing the matter and will take written public comments through Feb. 27.

The regulation is part of a plan to create a completely carbon-free truck sector by 2035. 

This is good news for many Californians, as it will improve air quality in communities with a lot of truck traffic. Diesel pollution is tied to serious health conditions like asthma and respiratory illnesses and can exacerbate existing heart and lung disease. 

For instance, Nancy Gonzalez, a resident of a Los Angeles neighborhood that gets frequent big rig traffic, told The New York Times that she has problems with her sinuses and that her son's eyes started tearing a few years ago.

The new truck rule at ports is also a win for the planet because the freight sector — the planes, trains, cargo ships, trucks, and other vehicles used to move goods around the world — accounts for about 8% of our planet-warming pollution, according to MIT Climate, which says that number could double by 2050.

California isn't alone in its quest to clean up its act — other states have introduced similar measures. For instance, New Jersey recently announced a plan to ban the sale of gas-powered cars by 2035. Climate advocates say this will help put 90,000 more EVs on the roads by 2030.

Plus, there is some positive movement in water transport. American technology company Boundary Layer is developing hydrogen-powered hydrofoil ships that produce zero carbon pollution. These ships will be able to transport goods as fast as air freight door-to-door and can do so at 50% of the cost, per the company.

California's new policy doesn't come without challenges. 

For instance, Harbor Pride Logistics acquired 14 electric trucks in 2023 to comply with the new regulations. The trucks were recalled in August, leaving the company in a tough spot.

"It's a brand-new technology, first generation, so I knew things were going to happen, but I wasn't expecting all my 14 trucks to be taken back," Neri Diaz, chief executive of the company, told The New York Times. "It is a big impact on my operations."

Plus, electric trucks can cost more than $400,000 and cannot yet travel long distances without long charging stops, per the Times.

The state is trying to make the transition smoother by offering truck purchase grants of up to $288,000 per vehicle. This is not dissimilar from a rebate program in the state that gave residents up to $7,500 for the purchase of EVs, plug-in hybrids, and fuel cell vehicles. In late 2023, the program transitioned to serve lower-income individuals.

"It's extra headaches, extra costs," Rudy Diaz, president of Hight Logistics, said to The New York Times. "But consumers are asking for products that are more sustainable, and they're willing to pay the price."

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