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Draft Rulemaking Out of California for Zero-Emission Forklifts

Posted: April 11th, 2023

Authors: Madison J. 

State of California Executive Order N-79-20 sets goals to transition to 100% zero-emissions off-road vehicles and equipment by 2035 where feasible. To address that initiative, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) has now released the draft Zero-Emission Forklifts (ZEF) Regulation. CARB defines ZEF as forklifts using fuel-cell-electric, battery-electric, or other zero-emission technology as the only source of power for operational propulsion and work. The ZEF Regulation intends to phase out certain forklifts discussed below, using model year, to create a state-wide forklift fleet of ZEF. CARB states the purpose of the ZEF Regulation is to help accelerate the reduction of nitrogen oxide, particulate matter less than 2.5 microns, volatile organic compound, and greenhouse gas emissions in California.

Who will this affect?

The ZEF Regulation applies to forklift and engine manufacturers, owners, leasers, renters, sellers, or dealers in California considering any forklift powered by a large-spark ignition engine with a rated capacity of 12,000 pounds or less. Forklifts exempt from the current draft regulation include Rough Terrain, Combat and Tactical Support Equipment, Pallet Jack Forklifts, forklifts with telescoping booms, and forklifts owned and operated by a facility subject to the Mobile Cargo Handlings Equipment at Ports and Intermodal Rail Yards Regulations (Title 13, California Code of Regulations, Section 2479). According to CARB, the ZEF Regulation would impact approximately 95,000 forklifts across the state.

The ZEF Regulation will affect more than the forklift industry. Increased use of electric forklifts will increase electricity demand from the grid, pulling in the energy and utility industries. Increased electric forklift charging could trigger different Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations, hazardous waste management regulations, fire code regulations, and Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) regulations.

What are the Requirements?

Specific requirements vary depending on the type of forklift used, model year, business type (operators, dealers, renters, and manufacturers), and fleet size. All affected entities will be required to:

  • Keep a forklift inventory.
  • Ensure that manufacturer labels are intact and readable at all times.
  • Purchase, sell, lease, and/or operate ZEF only beginning January 1, 2026.
  • Phase-out all diesel-fueled or alternative-diesel-fueled off-road compression-ignition engines (or other affected forklifts) according to the ZEF Regulation schedule.
  • Report inventories on an annual basis after the initial report due October 31, 2025.

Non-compliance will result in a civil or criminal penalty determined on a per forklift, per day basis.

What is the Regulatory Timeline?

Currently, CARB is looking for feedback and suggestions from stakeholders via meetings and emails. In April 2023, CARB will submit a Standardized Regulatory Impact Assessment to the Department of Finance. In September 2023, the proposed ZEF Regulation goes to CARB for final review.

If approved, there are reporting requirements due as early as October 31, 2025. Starting January 1, 2026, affected forklifts may not be possessed, operated, manufactured, sold, leased, or rented.

If you are a forklift owner, manufacturer, leaser, renter, or dealer, what should you do now?

  • Sign up for email updates about the rule from CARB at: https://public.govdelivery.com/accounts/CARB/subscriber/new?topic_id=zeforklifts
  • Review CARB’s saved materials from past workgroups and workshops. They are all available here and provide details from CARB staff.
  • Provide stakeholder feedback and suggestions to CARB via zeroforklifts@arb.ca.gov.
  • Plan and prepare for this rule to be issued. Depending on a facility’s fleet size and model year, capital costs, new regulations, and new operating procedures may need to be addressed as soon as possible.

If you have questions, need assistance planning for the Zero-Emissions Forklift Regulation, or want help commenting on the draft rule, please contact Madison Jones, Consulting Engineer, at mjones@all4inc.com or (678) 293-9435.


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