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This EV Trucking Service is Bringing Green Jobs and Clean Air to Port Communities

May 20, 2024

· 6 min read
The Elemental Team

Forum Mobility is decarbonizing heavy trucking — and taking the burden of diesel pollution off frontline communities in the process.

Angel Rodriguez has worked as a truck driver in the drayage industry, which transports freight from ocean ports to nearby distribution centers, for more than 25 years. He’s an old hat at driving gas and diesel trucks, but these days he has a cleaner, quieter and more comfortable ride: a heavy-duty electric truck.

That’s because Angel drives for Hight Logistics, a mid-sized drayage services company based near the Port of Long Beach, CA, that is partnering with zero-emissions trucking and charging provider Forum Mobility to electrify its fleet. Hight Logistics is among the broader California drayage fleets — more than 33,000 trucks — tasked by a new California Air Resources Board regulation to transition to zero-emissions vehicles by 2035.

Not to be left behind, Hight Logistics founder and CEO Rudy Diaz jumped at the chance to become Forum’s first customer. For a fixed monthly fee in keeping with its subscription model, Forum provides Rudy’s team with five electric semi trucks and access to high-speed chargers at a lot near the port of Long Beach, which Forum developed with utility Southern California Edison.

The project supports Forum’s mission to build a pathway for fleets and the 80% of drayage truckers who are independent owner-operators to adapt to California’s ambitious new regulations and embrace EV trucking, without missing a beat. To keep its services in line with the cost of a diesel-powered truck, Forum leverages federal, state and local incentives, rebates and subsidies. It’s a solution designed to help independent truckers and small fleets maintain and even grow their businesses, while adapting to California’s new policies by 2035.

“These mandates are a wake-up call — not only for trucking companies — but for all of us living and working around ports. We need clean air to breathe. We need to be able to work effectively.” — Hight Logistics President and CEO Rudy Diaz

What’s more, the benefits of Forum’s model extend beyond drayage to the 39 million Americans who live within three miles of a port. These frontline communities, which are made up of predominantly low-income residents and people of color, bear a disproportionate burden of diesel pollution and experience higher rates of respiratory diseases. For instance, residents of Wilmington, CA, which sits adjacent to the Port of Long Beach, have a 98% higher likelihood of contracting cancer than residents of broader Los Angeles. By facilitating the transition from diesel trucking to EVs and creating local green jobs, Forum is bolstering the health and wealth of port communities.

And though Forum is helping Hight Logistics get ahead of the transition, the perks go two ways — Forum is learning from the drivers who will use its scaled-up infrastructure. Drivers like Angel, who overwhelmingly say the trucks improve their day-to-day by decreasing lower back pain, eliminating fumes that exacerbate asthma and making for a calmer and smoother drive.

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Elemental Impact

Forum Mobility CEO Matt Leducq with Forum Executive Vice President, Development and Construction Lien Dinh.
Forum Mobility CEO Matt Leducq with Forum Executive Vice President, Development and Construction Lien Dinh.

Forum Mobility joined Elemental in 2022 having raised $7.5M in seed funding to build its operations, broaden its team and further product development. Forum’s work with Hight Logistics grew out of Elemental’s Community Partnership Model, which it calls its Square Partnerships Model, and ladders into its goal of building the 157,000 EV chargers needed across California.

With Elemental’s support, which covers essential development costs like permitting, engineering design and traffic studies and community engagement, Forum is building the Port of Long Beach’s first community charging depot.

In an effort to engage local truckers and help them meet California’s zero-emissions mandate, Forum also became the first zero-emission service provider to join the Harbor Trucking Association (HTA), a coalition of west coast cargo carriers focused on advocacy and education. It also created an EV subcommittee to educate HTA members on the state mandates, timelines and compliance requirements.

In addition to its efforts to educate the local trucking community, Forum understood the wider experiences of environmental and economic injustices and the health implications resulting from those injustices from port emissions as well as the systemic inequalities that exist based on factors like race for the Long Beach community. The company prioritized engaging with mission-aligned community and local government partners committed to an equitable clean transportation transition like CalStart, Port of Long Beach and California Air Resources Board (CARB). The team worked with CARB to ensure equitable policy inclusion of small and large drayage fleets in the Advanced Clean Fleets regulation that will impact the Long Beach community and similarly situated communities near ports.

Situated at the busiest port in the country on the site of a former gas station, the facility boasts 9 megawatts of power — enough to support 25 dual port chargers to charge 44 heavy-duty battery electric trucks simultaneously. This means truckers can recharge and be back on the road in about 90 minutes. At full capacity, the depot will serve over 200 trucks a day.

The depot is expected to be fully staffed and online by fall 2024 and is projected to offset more than 90,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions.

Reducing emissions, growing a business

For Rudy, CEO at Hight Logistics, transitioning to electric has had a profound impact on the growth of his business: it has allowed him to double it.

Hight’s largest customer before working with Forum shipped about 3,000 containers a year — but a new customer, who chose Hight because it uses EV trucks, ships 6,000 containers. It reflects a shift both Hight and Forum are increasingly finding to be true: cargo owners like Amazon and Lime are looking to partner on zero emission freight, and in fact, it’s the new bar for corporate sustainability.

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The Next Level

The success of California’s transition to EV trucking will hinge on a massive influx of investment and technology. Starting in the Port of Long Beach, Forum ultimately aims to expand geographically along essential freight corridors in California and beyond — offering a one-stop solution that eases the transition for small independent operators and large fleets alike. This network will need ample infrastructure and real estate, and as of January 2023, Forum had secured $400M in joint venture funding to build it out.

The project is modeling how to rapidly decarbonize an industry and mitigate pollution in seaport communities, so drivers like Angel and the team at Hight Logistics can maintain healthy businesses — and healthy lives.

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