'Mandate madness' over electric trucks will fire up used truck market

Late last month, President Biden gave the green light for California to enforce a mandate that half of all garbage trucks, tractor-trailers, cement mixers and other heavy vehicles sold in the state must be all-electric by 2035.

According to The New York Times, when it takes effect next year, the rule will pertain to sales of trucks ranging in size from delivery vans to big rigs. By 2035, 55% of delivery vans and small trucks, 75% of buses and larger trucks, and 40% of tractor-trailers and other big rigs sold in the state would have to be all-electric.

Jay Grimes, director of federal affairs for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, which represents truckers, told The New York Times an important reality that California is not considering. “Can a trucker get a charge that will take them on a highway for two or three days? Is the technology ready for prime time?” he asked.

Grimes added that batteries for electric trucks can weigh thousands of pounds more than conventional combustion engines, which would limit the amount of goods that truckers can haul.

These are great points, but there is so much more to think about – and question – regarding these blind mandates!

●     If you run out of fuel on the road, how can you recharge your truck – a mobile charging station? How much will THAT cost?

●      If your concern is fossil fuels, where is the renewable energy infrastructure? Any electric charging station that can fuel a truck right now is powered by the grid which invariably uses cheap, reliable fossil fuels for energy. Sun and wind can’t come close to matching the cost and efficiency of energy fossil fuels and it looks to be decades before they will.

●      It seems like every week there is a car, truck, ebike, laptop or phone bursting into flames because of lithium-ion batteries. Safer alternatives are needed!

●      How can you call it “Investing in America” when over 70% of the materials come from China and the lithium and other needed metals are mined by children in deadly mine pits around the world?

●      What will happen to the mandates when better, cleaner energy sources like hydrogen force their way into the market in the next 7-10 years?

But here’s the biggest problem that California isn’t pondering. If all they can get from the manufacturers are electric, truckers and fleet managers simply won’t buy more trucks. Instead, owners will keep the trucks they have, and drive them until they finally break down for the last time. The secondary parts market will boom.

This mandate also raises the possibility that the government will ultimately legislate that fuel-burning trucks are illegal altogether. Imagine not being able to drive a truck into California, or one of the other six states with similar rules pending – New York, New Jersey, Washington, Oregon, Massachusetts and Vermont. 

Remember when the government outlawed "glider" trucks? Gliders came about when the government mandated all trucks be equipped with diesel particulate filters (DPFs). This gave rise to a new industry of making trucks out of old engine parts that sidestepped the emissions controls. Because this workaround got so popular, the government eventually outlawed them, thereby forcing compliance with the mandate.

In the end, if manufacturers have trouble selling their new electric trucks, the lack of demand will either cause upward pressure on the price of new trucks or force manufacturers to start shutting down operations, putting thousands of workers out of a job. All of this will have a negative impact on consumers, who rely on trucks for their medicine, food, raw materials and other essentials.

Let’s please just end the mandate madness and let the market guide the process.