As the U.S. moves from fossil fuels to renewable energy to power its transportation system, the trucking industry, especially small trucking companies and independent owner-operators have many questions and decisions to make. That’s precisely why the non-profit CALSTART was created.
On its website, CALSTART boasts that it “works with its member companies and agencies to build a high-tech clean-transportation industry that creates jobs, cuts air pollution and oil imports, and curbs climate change.” It has also recently made itself available to small trucking companies through its “Transforming Trucks Transforming Communities” program.
“Most commercial trucking fleets in the U.S. are small businesses, yet most of the news and information circulating about zero-emissions trucks is geared toward large, well-funded fleets,” says Niki Okuk, deputy director of CALSTART. “Transforming Trucks Transforming Communities is designed to close that information gap and make the ZEV news relevant to small and medium-sized fleets much easier to find and act on.”
Okuk’s goal is to see that small fleets get their portion of California’s Hybrid and Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Voucher Program (HVIP) and another program called Clean Off-Road Equipment Incentive Voucher Program (CORE). Both are programs started by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) which takes money garnered from pollution fines and turns it into money for zero-emission cars, trucks, and buses.
Not surprisingly, however, much of the funding from these programs have gone to large fleets. In fact, 83 companies with 100 or more trucks took most of the 2,016 vouchers made available by HVIP in 2021. Vouchers can be for as much as $120,000.
102 medium-size fleets with 11 to 99 vehicles were also able to get incentives, but just 41 small fleets, with 11 or fewer trucks, received the money. One reason for this is that manufacturers prefer to work with larger fleets to sell as many trucks as possible.
This seems to ignore the fact that, according to the American Trucking Associations, 91% of fleets had six or fewer trucks and 97% of fleets had less than 20.
Fortunately, California is increasing the amount of money available in 2022 to $1.5 billion. That’s on top of $2.5 billion in federal funding coming from President Biden’s infrastructure bill. This is good news as the state heads full-throttle toward requiring electric vehicles with CARB mandating that 9% of new trucks sold in the state need to be zero-emission by 2024.
“As the state continues to raise the bar with ambitious zero-emission freight goals, we have to remember that truck drivers and operators in our neighborhoods are often minority small-business owners who need and deserve additional resources to be part of this industry transformation. Too often we are left behind,” said Okuk, who was a former small-fleet owner herself.
CALSTART provides “easy-to-use” tools for small fleet owners, such as a “Total Cost of Ownership Calculator” “which uses current diesel truck information to predict fleet savings and return on investment for electric trucks.”
It also has a “Funding Finder” which is specific to California and helps find incentives for the switch from diesel to electric. Finally, it features “Infrastructure Planning Tools” to help “small business owners sort through their options for installing chargers and fueling zero-emission trucks.”