California Makes Moves Toward Zero-Emissions Shipping Industry & Cleaner Fleets

The state of California has embarked on what’s being called a “massive transformation of the freight movement system” with a new plan that includes electric or natural gas-fueled semi-trucks, new traffic management systems and greater use of biogas for moving crops. The state released the California Sustainable Freight Action Plan earlier this month.

Among the features of the draft plan are the deployment by 2030 of 100,000 zero- and near-zero emissions trucks, trains, harbor crafts, airport ground service vehicles, and other vehicles that move freight, according to industry newsletter The plan also seeks to reduce emissions by slashing the use of petroleum-based fuels by freight movers.

Another feature of the plan is using biogas from dairy waste to fuel trucks and other freight movers in the agriculture-heavy San Joaquin Valley, says. It also leans on big data and related technology to reduce emissions, including intelligent transportation systems, semi-autonomous vehicles, and improved traffic management at ports of entry along the California-Mexico border.

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Also this month, state clean air agencies announced a $40 million program to fund 43 zero-emission big rigs that carry shipping containers to and from seaports across the state. Four heavy truck manufacturers will build the new trucks.

The California Air Resources Board is covering $23.6 million of the cost, with funding generated by the states greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program. That money is being matched by $16.4 million from regional air district boards across the state

The 43 trucks will come in three different configurations. Completely electric trucks will be developed by BYD and a team comprising Peterbilt and start-up TransPower. A plug-in hybrid electric-diesel truck will come from Volvo under the Mack truck brand. And Peterbilt and Kenworth will partner with BAE Systems to build trucks that use natural gas engines to recharge their batteries and that will have the capability to operate in zero-emissions mode.

The program symbolizes a “major step toward the development of zero emission big rigs for intra-regional applications,” says John Boesel, president and CEO of CALSTART, an industry group that works to develop and implement clean transportation technologies. The group partnered with the air control boards to select the winning companies. “Trucks with no tailpipe emissions are needed to meet air quality standards not only in California, but in many of the mega-cities in Asia, South America, and Europe.”

Seeing a need for greater fleet efficiency, UPS has cut the carbon intensity of its global fleet of trucks and planes by 10%, and actually hit that goal in 2013, three years ahead of its 2016 target. The company is now aiming at a 20% reduction in carbon emissions by 2020. It’ll do that in part by growing its fleet of alternative fuel trucks, which number 7,700. Using renewable natural gas (RNG) from Clean Energy Fuels Corp. as a fuel is a major component of this plan.

UPS is also focusing on using big data to optimize package movement to help minimize its energy usage; to that end, the company acquired Coyote Logistics, a third-party logistics company that focuses on transportation services for shippers. UPS is also investing in energy conservation measures at its warehouses and other facilities and in its daily operations.

And in February, UPS joined other investors in providing $28 million in funding for Deliv, a start-up company in Menlo Park, California, that offers same-day delivery of merchandise purchased by consumers from major retailers and shopping malls. The company’s chief commercial officer said that the investment will help UPS gain insights into the market for same day delivery, according to Reuters. Deliv is an “Uber-like” startup that utilizes a fleet of contract drivers to handle last-mile delivery for malls and retailers.



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