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Today, there are no container ships waiting offshore of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, a far cry from the 109-vessel queue in January of last year, but this doesn’t mean we have solved the problems that led to the backup. It’s easy to blame the pandemic for these problems, but the reality of the situation is these ports were bottlenecks long before COVID-19. The explosion of demand during the pandemic simply exposed these weaknesses. Now, with cargo volumes down, we have an opportunity to review our game tape, identify our weaknesses and areas of improvement, and find innovative new ways to fix our broken system.

In April, the California Air Resource Board (CARB) voted unanimously to adopt the Advanced Clean Fleets rule. This legislation works hand in hand with the state’s Advanced Clean Trucks rule to “end the sales of traditional combustion trucks by 2036, creating a path to 100% zero emission medium and heavy-duty trucks on the roads in California by 2045.” This legislation also bars non-zero emission “legacy” drayage trucks from registering into the CARB online system after December 31st of this year. So much for learning from our mistakes…

Rather than collaborating with the private sector to bring about meaningful change, California is intent on forcing trucking companies to comply with unreasonable demands. Not only does the state lack the 157,000 chargers required to charge the estimated 180,000 medium and heavy-duty ZEVs expected to be in use by 2030, but it also lacks the energy required to support those chargers. The Wall Street Journal’s Jennifer Hiller explains, “As fleets add trucks they may need to draw an additional 6 to 8 megawatts of power or more”. Supporting this level of output would require infrastructure improvements that could take years. In the meantime, some electric fleets have turned to diesel generators to charge their trucks, while others are ordering legacy rigs that will be delivered before the January 1st cut-off.

One of the industry’s greatest weaknesses during the pandemic was a lack of flexibility. The ports were weighed down by labor disputes and overregulation slowed down the nation’s supply chain exponentially. I understand the value of reduced carbon emissions, but we need a chance to fix the current supply chain before we rebuild it.

Rather than leaning so heavily on electric trucks, California needs to focus on alternative green solutions, like hydrogen fuel, that do not rely on California’s already strained electric grid. While California’s regulations do recognize hydrogen fuel cell options, it widely follows the ‘electrify everything’ mentality. Further, California energy officials need to partner with the private sector to find innovative ways of cutting down our emissions while fixing the broken system that contributed to our nation’s supply chain crisis. If not, we have a recipe for disaster.


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