Friday, December 18, 2015

Sustainable Freight and the Golden State

2015 is coming to a close and we are that much closer to the release of CARB’s draft plan for freight sustainability in the Golden State. Called appropriately enough the Sustainable Freight Transport Initiative (SFTI), it is the first coordinated plan of its kind that seeks to unite all transportation sectors operating in California under a clean air, high efficiency umbrella.

As we inch ever closer to its release, CARB and other agencies have been circulating clues for the potential direction of the plan. (Information for the SFTI can be accessed here:

The previous incarnation of the SFTI outlined several concepts encouraging “sustainability” in the freight transport network. Without going into detail, suffice it to say the overall tone for the transportation sector had a strong push to zero emissions wherever technically feasible. They also have an eye on in-use emissions performance of existing engines, enforcement enhancements and potential cleaner standards for new engines sold in California. See more here:

 Several concepts are being thrown around in these early stages, however, one proposal in particular rings as a harbinger for future controls of on-road compliant equipment; the so called “facility cap” may potentially force covered facility operators to require the cleanest equipment available in order to access the facility. See more here  
While all strategies are generally outlined in the plan, there have been no concrete proposals besides suggestions for regulatory measures coupled with incentives that will push towards their goals. The plan is slated for release in July; directly in line with the Governor’s Executive Order requiring an integrated freight strategy that sets clear targets for a transition to zero emission technology.

Along with the zero emission strategy, the Governor has also proclaimed a need for strategies to increase freight industry efficiency while maximizing the competitiveness of California’s freight system. To this end, CalTrans, opened a solicitation for public input to identify freight pilot project ideas in California that ensure progress towards a sustainable freight transportation system.

While some creative concepts will no doubt emerge from the 53 some odd proposals they received before the November 30 deadline, one thing is for certain; the freight transport network cannot function without heavy duty vehicles, no matter how badly everyone wants to shift cargo from truck to intermodal rail.

And while Governor Brown has long abandoned his “small is better” approach in engaging the administrative might of several agencies in this ambitious plan, the economic and engineering implementation realities will no doubt rear their ugly heads to squash many of the concepts that will surface from the depths. It is possible that the proposals may be of more interest to folks who appreciate science fiction and fantasy, or macabre technical specification manuals rather than those who will be doing the regulating.

Regardless of public input or opposition or support for that matter, the Governor is moving forward and will hold his agencies accountable for a draft plan by July. Not coincidentally , CARB will  release the State Implementation Plan for Federal Ozone compliance during the same month. The two will no doubt be intertwined from the ground up when it come s to control of Ozone resutling from the transportation sector. This will include in-use mobile source control measures, a facility cap, new engine standards and in use engine emissions performance criteria just to name a few.

Stay tuned. Much, much more to come.