Nevada could evaluate implementation of a Clean Truck Program that includes requirements for low- or zero-emissions commercial truck sales in the state and/or operating requirements within the state. A Clean Truck Program could accelerate a large-scale transition of medium- and heavy-duty vehicles (MHDVs) within Class 2b to Class 8 from fossil fuels to zero-emissions technology (e.g., electric and hydrogen fuel cell).

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that MHDVs are the second-largest source of transportation-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions nationwide, noting that in 2018 light-duty vehicles represented 58% of CO2 emissions from transportation fossil-fuel combustion and MHDVs represented 25%.”

Like low-emissions vehicle (LEV) and zero-emissions vehicle (ZEV) standards, a Clean Truck Program would need to be based on regulations adopted in California. This is simply because the 1970 Clean Air Act allows California to seek a waiver to set stricter emissions standards than those set by the federal government and provides the authority for other states to adopt the California standards.

California adopted an Advanced Clean Truck (ACT) regulation on June 25, 2020. The regulation aims to accelerate California’s transition to zero-emissions MHDVs (CARB, 2019; CARB, 2020). It has two parts:

  • Zero-emissions truck sales: Manufacturers that certify certain truck chassis or complete vehicles with combustion engines would be required to sell zero-emissions trucks as an increasing percentage of their annual California sales from 2024 to 2035.
  • One-time large company and fleet reporting: Large employers including retailers, manufacturers, brokers, and others would be required to report information about shipments and shuttle services. Fleet owners with 50 or more trucks would be required to report about their existing fleet operations. This information would help identify future strategies to ensure that fleets purchase available zero-emissions trucks and place them in service where suitable to meet their needs.

In addition to California, 14 other states have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) committing to collaborate on a multi-state action plan to support a sustainable zero-emissions MHDV market and widespread electrification of MHDVs. The MOU also includes agreement to reach 30% zero-emissions MDHV sales by 2030 and 100% by 2050, and to make progress toward electrification of state government and quasi-governmental agency MHDV fleets. The MOU contains several other elements, including consideration of the need for adoption of the California Advanced Clean Trucks Rule under Section 177 of the Clean Air Act.

With dedication of some additional personnel resources, Nevada could join these 15 states to participate in development of the action plan and associated efforts. An initial review of a Clean Truck Program and identification of issues for further evaluation is included below, and may be partially completed through Nevada’s participation in the MHDV MOU and associated action plan with other states.

Greenhouse Gas Implications

In order to adequately assess the potential GHG reduction, more information is needed, such as the market for MHDVs in Nevada as well as operating characteristics of the MHDV fleets in the state. MHDV charging infrastructure planning and investments would need to be evaluated in parallel with adoption of a Clean Truck Program to better predict GHG emissions-reduction impacts.

Operating characteristics of fleets, such as local delivery trucks that travel short distances within confined areas versus long-haul interstate trucking, would be necessary to understand both the opportunity as well as the effectiveness of this policy. Some of this information is available, but detailed analysis has not yet been done for Nevada. Approximately 70% of trucks operating within the state are coming from or going to California, so Nevada will likely benefit from regulations in California (Transearch Truck Data, 2018).

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Climate Justice

As low-income and minority populations are often located in closer proximity to areas of high freight movement, such as freeways and industrial centers, this policy has the potential to have a beneficial impact to reduce the current disparity of emissions of criteria air pollutants (including fine particulate matter emissions from diesel MHDVs) among the population. As this policy may not affect freeway operations, the impact is uncertain without additional information on the areas with a high volume of short truck trips compared with demographic data. 

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Integrated Economic Assessment

As this concept is still relatively new at the statewide level, costs and benefits are not yet well documented. For example, California is still undergoing rulemaking but has a detailed cost-benefit analysis of its ACT rule. The fiscal impact to state government is estimated to be -$1.4 million over the first three years of the regulation and -$3.8 billion over the regulatory lifetime. This large negative value mainly represents the decreased fuel tax revenue for the state government over the regulatory timeframe.

As Nevada is a smaller state, the overall economic impact would likely be much smaller, but would also have a large negative impact to the state highway fund and would pose substantial upfront costs to MHDV users and manufacturers. Analyses can be done on the anticipated revenue loss, once the scope of the policy (i.e., all trucks versus low mileage, versus only those sold in state) is determined. In addition, the Nevada State Legislative Committee on Energy has raised the issue of developing a more-sustainable funding source for transportation to be able to support climate and environmental initiatives while maintaining a healthy fund for transportation infrastructure. Consideration of this policy may need to be addressed as part of the larger transportation funding and climate incentives discussion. 

Additionally, the upfront costs of zero-emissions MHDVs, infrastructure investment, and potential payback on fuel and maintenance savings need to be further assessed for Nevada fleet population characteristics.

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Implementation Feasibility

Preemption of state law by the federal Clean Air Act, and uncertainty surrounding waiver of federal preemption, are potentially the main legal hurdles for this policy. Potential additional hurdles include the need to amend or adopt new legislation and regulations. 

Section 209(a) of the federal Clean Air Act prohibits states from adopting limits on air pollutant emissions from cars and trucks. However, the Clean Air Act allows California to set more-stringent emissions standards (e.g., zero emissions from certain trucks) if the EPA grants a “waiver.” Other states may adopt California’s more-stringent emissions standards if California has a valid waiver. 

The EPA granted California waivers for years until recently, when it withdrew California’s 2013 waiver. California, joined by several states including Nevada, challenged the EPA’s decision in federal court. The case is currently in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, Case No. 19-1230 and consolidated cases. These challenges are not yet resolved, and it is unclear when they will be. It is expected that the Biden administration will reinstitute these waivers. 

If California does not have a valid waiver from the EPA, then Nevada might not be permitted to adopt California’s Advanced Clean Truck program. 

In addition, adopting California’s Advanced Clean Truck standards may require amendment of Nevada statutes. Under the Clean Air Act waiver process, a state must adopt standards identical to California’s. Nevada’s vehicle emissions statutes may contain definitions that differ from the definitions in California’s Advanced Clean Truck program. In that case, the legislature might need to amend Nevada statutes. Additionally, the State Environmental Commission (SEC) would likely need to promulgate new regulations in order to adopt California’s Advanced Clean Truck program.

In addition to these legal considerations, further evaluation of upfront costs, infrastructure investment, adaptation of zero-emissions MHDVs to user needs, and charging and fueling standards are needed.

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