No More Old Diesel Locomotives in California: Authorities Approve New Emission Regulations

No More Old Diesel Locomotives in California: Authorities Approve New Emission Regulations
Union Pacific locomotive with intermodal double-stack train in California © Railmarket

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) passed a new In-Use Locomotive Regulation that will ban locomotives made before 2007 from entering California after 2030. In addition, all locomotives operating in the state after 2035 must be zero-emission.


California has been implementing restrictions on transportation, leading to zero emissions, for some time now. The ban on the sale of passenger cars with a combustion engine from 2035 was complemented by a requirement for 50% of heavy-duty trucks to be electric by the same year. Now, it’s the railway’s turn.

CARB has adopted an In-Use Locomotive Regulation that will ban locomotives older than 23 years from entering the state in 2030. Additionally, shunting and passenger locomotives built in 2030 or after will be required to operate in zero-emissions configurations while in California. And the same will become valid for mainline freight locomotives from 2035 onwards.

The expectations of reduced environmental impact from railroads are high. The In-Use Locomotive Regulation is projected to contribute the largest reduction in nitrogen oxide emissions toward meeting California air quality standards by the 2037 deadline.

According to CARB, the reduced nitrogen oxide and diesel particulate matter will bring an estimated $32 billion in health savings by preventing 3,200 premature deaths and 1,500 emergency room visits and hospitalisations. As CARB adds, the cancer risk from exposure to air toxins within one mile of locomotive operations is expected to be reduced by 90%.

To ease the financial burden on the operators, funding programs are available, particularly for companies that are taking early action or those looking to go beyond the regulation’s requirements. These include California state funding, as well as billions in federal US grants and rebates to reduce air pollution.

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