AJR Trucking, a leading contractor for the United States Postal Service (USPS) and a major drayage carrier operating in the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, California, announced it placed a purchase order for 50 Nikola Tre hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) trucks from Tom’s Truck Centers, a member of the Nikola Corporation sales and service dealer network.
What CARB's Advanced Clean Fleets Rule Says About Federal Contractor Fleets
CARB's Advanced Clean Fleets rule, approved April 28, requires a phased-in transition toward zero-emission medium-and-heavy duty vehicles, and is aimed at kickstarting the transition to ZEVs in all public fleets in the state. The timelines are different for federal public fleets than they are for state and local public fleets.
Federal fleets must comply with CARB's Model Year Schedule or may elect to use the optional ZEV Milestones Option to phase-in ZEVs into their fleets:
- Model Year Schedule: Fleets must purchase only ZEVs beginning in 2024 and, starting January 1, 2025, must remove internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles at the end of their useful life as specified in the regulation.
- ZEV Milestones Option (Optional): Instead of the Model Year Schedule, fleets may elect to meet ZEV targets as a percentage of the total fleet starting with vehicle types that are most suitable for electrification. That schedule is included in the table below.
The flexibility is intended to take into consideration the available technology and the need to target the highest-polluting vehicles.
A CARB spokesperson clarified whether this includes federal contractor fleets. According to CARB, if a high-priority fleet contracts with sub-haulers under common ownership or control, they must include the sub-hauler’s vehicles in their fleet. It is up to the controlling party to remain in compliance with the regulation.
In this case, common ownership or control means being owned or managed on a day-to-day basis by the same persons or entities. It includes vehicles owned by different entities but operated using common or shared resources to manage the day-to-day operations, using the same motor carrier number, displaying the same name or logo, or contractors whose services are under the day-to-day control of the hiring entity.
Fueling the Nikola Tre FCEVs
According to a press release, AJR Trucking and Nikola will explore the opportunities to deploy Nikola’s 10,000 psi (700 bar) mobile fueling solution at AJR Trucking properties in Compton and Santa Clarita to provide convenient and seamless fueling for the FCEVs.
AJR Trucking expects to receive hydrogen fuel delivered by Nikola to its terminals in support of the FCEV deployment. Net of the various incentives, AJR Trucking anticipates rough cost parity with its existing fleet of trucks in its postal service and drayage operations.
“We are confident the future of trucking is zero-emissions, and based upon our operational needs, the Nikola Tre FCEVs were the only zero tailpipe emission vehicles that could meet our range, performance, and cost targets,” AJR Trucking owner Jack Khudikyan said. “We are excited to be at the forefront of the deployment of this new technology and to be able to offer our customers zero-emissions freight solutions. We look forward to working with Nikola and USPS to integrate the FCEVs into our mail hauling operations starting in Southern California and envision expanding the use of these trucks throughout our operations nationwide.”
AJR Trucking's ZEV Track Record
AJR Trucking has been performing mail hauling operations for USPS for over 30 years nationwide and has a history of deploying the latest truck technology and supporting the advancement of alternatively fueled vehicles into its fleets.
The company pioneered some of the first compressed natural gas (CNG) trucks in operation for the USPS and in 2022 placed the largest order for Class 8 battery-electric vehicles from Kenworth to date. It currently operates more than 115 CNG trucks.
Additionally, AJR Trucking has gone beyond minimizing tailpipe emissions by investing in an on-site CNG fueling station in partnership with US Gain at its facilities in Compton, California, where AJR has been making negative carbon intensity renewable natural gas available to its fleet and for public consumption.
AJR reported that it sees FCEVs as the next step forward, given their zero tailpipe emissions, long range, and fast fueling times and will continue working with its customers to offer additional zero-emissions freight services to support their carbon reduction targets.
Funding AJR Trucking's New FCEVs
Nikola and Tom’s Truck Centers will support AJR Trucking in securing its voucher application to the California Air Resources Board's (CARB's) Hybrid and Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Project (HVIP) program with the expectation of receiving $270,000 per FCEV in point-of-sale incentives. An additional $40,000 in federal tax credits is expected from the Inflation Reduction Act.
Deliveries of the new vehicles are expected to take place in late 2023 or early 2024.
Editor's Note: This story was edited to reflect clarifications in CARB's regulation for federal contractor fleets.