TRALA-Opposed Diesel Vehicle Ban Removed from DC Budget

After strong opposition from TRALA and several of its allies in the trucking industry, the District of Columbia (DC) City Council has officially abandoned legislative language that would have banned new diesel-powered motor vehicles from operating in the District. The legislative language that would have placed the ban on diesel vehicles into effect was not included in DC's budget for fiscal year 2015, which was approved on Monday, July 14 when DC Council members voted to override a veto from Mayor Vincent Gray.
The problematic language was first contained in DC legislation known as the "Sustainable DC Omnibus Act of 2013," which had a provision that would not have allowed diesel-powered vehicles to be registered in DC unless the vehicle had previously been registered in DC, effective January 1, 2018. In theory, this prohibition, in combination with proposed tax credits for businesses that convert to alternative-fueled vehicles would improve air quality in DC. However, TRALA and its allies felt that this kind of legislation was unnecessary and counterproductive, because it would have banned new diesel-powered trucks that comply with strict federal emissions standards and run on ultra-low sulfur diesel, and are safer and more technologically advanced than trucks from previous model years. 
Following the release of the proposed legislation, TRALA, American Trucking Associations (ATA), American Moving and Storage Association (AMSA), Maryland Motor Truck Association (MMTA), and Virginia Trucking Association (VTA) wrote to DC Council Chairman Phil Mendelson to express serious concerns about banning new diesel-powered vehicles from operating in DC. Perhaps the biggest concern about the diesel vehicle ban stemmed from the way the International Registration Plan (IRP) for commercial trucks operating in interstate commerce functions. Even if a commercial motor vehicle is base-plated in a jurisdiction other than DC, but still has DC as an authorized jurisdiction on its cab card, the new diesel-powered vehicle still will not be allowed to travel in DC because a vehicle registered under the IRP is actually registered in and by each IRP member in which it is authorized to travel. So new diesel-powered vehicles from anywhere in the U.S. that had never before had DC on its cab card would have been banned from DC. Thus, interstate commerce would have been severely impacted by the legislation that was originally proposed.
Following receipt of the coalition's letter, TRALA, the allied trucking associations, as well as several other stakeholders met with senior staff from the DC Council's Finance and Revenue Committee, which was assigned jurisdiction over that section of the legislation. The coalition and the Finance and Revenue Committee agreed that the best course of action was to remove prohibitive language regarding the operation of diesel-powered vehicles. Following this, the Council also considered removing all of the original tax incentives for alternative fuels in favor of a tax exemption for diesel fuel blended with at least 20 percent biodiesel. The Council's Chief Financial Officer (CFO) predicted that this move would have cost the city to lose too much tax revenue, and thus that idea was abandoned.
Ultimately, language from the Sustainable Omnibus Act with tax incentives for those who voluntarily wish to convert to alternative fuel vehicles (minus the ban on new diesel vehicles) was added to the Council's budget bill that was approved yesterday. To see the budget bill approved by the DC Council, click here.
For questions, contact TRALA's Joe Sculley at or by calling (703) 299-9120.