July 9, 2018
In a big win for AFVs, the weight-limit exemption bill, AB 2061, which the Coalition is co-sponsoring, has cleared one more hurdle on its way to becoming law. It unanimously passed the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee ahead of the Legislature’s summer recess, with zero fatal amendments.
“This is a big deal, and it shows how important it is for Coalition members to take their story directly to legislators,” said Coalition President Thomas Lawson, who credited the bill’s success in part to the Coalition’s increased advocacy and education efforts with legislators and their staffers.
AB 2061 allows a near-zero-emission or zero-emission vehicle to exceed California’s weight limits on the power unit by as much as 2,000 pounds, increasing the allowable truck weight limit to 82,000 pounds. According to the bill’s author, Assemblymember Jim Frazier (D-Discovery Bay), increasing these limits will make alternative fuel trucks more competitive with diesel- and gasoline-powered trucks. The fuel systems in natural gas and electric trucks weigh more than internal combustion engines, so to comply with the state’s current weight limits, clean truck operators have to cut their carrying capacity. This has made it financially difficult for many fleets to switch to cleaner trucks.
The bill faced little opposition in the Assembly—both the Assembly Transportation and Appropriations committees passed it with universal support. One concern raised in the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee, though, could signal a battle looming on the horizon.
The concern is that heavier trucks would damage California’s roads. Advocates for AB 2061 reminded the committee that the science of alternative fuel trucks simply makes them heavier than diesel trucks. The bill will be amended to suggest that CalTrans and/or the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Davis, conduct a study to measure the true impact that heavier alternative fuel trucks will have on transportation corridors.
“Conversations about AB 2061 reveal that California must figure out a way to get clean air and protect its existing infrastructure,” said Lawson. “I believe that we can do both.”
The Legislature adjourned for summer recess on July 6 and will reconvene on Aug. 6, after which the Senate Appropriations Committee will hear AB 2061. In the meantime, the Coalition will continue to advocate for the bill, meeting with members of the Appropriations Committee to discuss its merits and preparing for the floor vote. Lawson encourages members who have not yet shown their support for the bill to submit letters to their legislators.
Photo ©Westport Innovations, used by permission