State agencies issue plan on freight system


Issue Date: August 10, 2016
By Christine Souza

Every facet of commercial transportation in California—rail, trucks, ships, forklifts, fuel and more—will be covered by a final plan state agencies intend to use as a blueprint for the future of freight, including a transition to zero-emission technologies.

The final version of the California Sustainable Freight Action Plan, released last week, resulted from work by seven state agencies and offices, with a stated goal to develop a strategy for a freight system that is "environmentally cleaner, more efficient and more economically competitive."

Upon release of the final plan, state Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols said agencies had "listened to stakeholders, incorporated changes and we will continue to consult with them as we put the plan into action."

The plan includes what the agencies called "a long-term, 2050 vision" and guiding principles for California's future freight transport system. It also establishes shorter-term targets:

  • Improving freight system efficiency 25 percent by 2030;
  • Deploying more than 100,000 zero-emission vehicles or pieces of equipment, and maximizing use of near-zero-emission vehicles by 2020;
  • Fostering future economic growth within the freight and goods movement industry.

The agencies said they intend to revisit those targets in 2019, and will take additional actions to assess the plan's effectiveness in achieving the targets between now and then. The plan also identifies opportunities to maximize state freight transport system investments, identifies actions to initiate during the next five years to meet goals and lists possible pilot projects.

Andrea Fox, legislative policy analyst for the California Farm Bureau Federation, said CFBF joined a coalition of freight-dependent and trade-related businesses and organizations that commented on the draft freight plan, which was released in May. The Western Agricultural Processors Association, California Fresh Fruit Association, California Citrus Mutual, California Cotton Ginners and Growers Associations, Agricultural Council of California and other business groups studied the draft plan and provided input.

Fox said the farm and business organizations have participated in meetings and workgroups regarding the plan for nearly three years, and noted improvements in it. She said other aspects of the plan could have a "costly effect" on the movement of goods, such as a requirement to reduce pollution from greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, and cutting petroleum use in cars and trucks by up to half of current levels by 2030.

Cynthia Cory, CFBF director of environmental affairs, said the plan could also affect agricultural freight shipments through its goals for eventual zero-emission technology requirements for vehicles and equipment such as electric forklifts; lower-emission trucks (beyond the current ARB "truck rule"); and new requirements at freight hubs and distribution centers.

The California Trucking Association said commercial trucking is currently, and is projected to remain, the primary mode of goods movement in California, hauling nearly 90 percent of manufactured tonnage in the state.

Chris Shimoda, CTA policy director, said the final sustainability plan does not directly address agricultural harvest trucking, but said there will be impacts.

"The state is pushing the federal (Environmental Protection Agency) for a new, lower-emission standard for trucks. While we expect the standards will be met largely with existing technologies, you can always anticipate increased maintenance costs associated with new engine standards," Shimoda said.

He noted the plan includes a goal to transition to zero-emissions vehicles "everywhere feasible."

"Transitioning to zero emissions means both up-front equipment costs two to three times higher than existing technology and a huge charging infrastructure network that must be built out," Shimoda said. "Also, because the technologies are all so new, there will be many speed bumps along the road to commercialization, as with any new product."

The state's plan calls for a balancing of economic and environmental goals.

"Freight-dependent industries, including agriculture, manufacturing, transportation service providers and trade, are estimated to provide one-third of California's economy and jobs," Shimoda said. "We clearly cannot get this wrong."

Next steps for state agencies participating in the plan will include continued work with interested parties to refine and prioritize the strategies and actions outlined in the plan. The agencies said they will also create collaborative working groups on competitiveness, system efficiency, workforce developments, and regulatory and permitting process improvements.

CFBF said it would continue to participate in regular California Freight Advisory Committee meetings, which will establish work plans for chosen pilot projects.

For more information about the freight plan, see the website www.casustainablefreight.org.

(Christine Souza is an assistant editor of Ag Alert. She may be contacted at csouza@cfbf.com.)

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.