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Better Jobs Powered by Electricity

California has mandated an aggressive push toward clean energy in trucking and electrical power generation. This includes a transition to battery-powered, zero-emission heavy-duty trucks that have much shorter travel ranges than diesel trucks. This will change the most profitable locations for warehouses from outlying regions in the Inland Empire where land is cheap to urban areas closer to consumers that reduce the mileage between ports and warehouses and preserve logistics profits.

The ripple effects from clean truck propulsion technology are altering not only trucking and warehouses, but also where electricity is needed and new utility infrastructure must be built for distributing and storing an adequate supply of electricity. The changes are described in the Roundtable report, Coming Soon! A Warehouse Near You.

Both trucking companies and warehouses are clustered in specific areas. The Roundtable has built databases that identify the locations of 3,326 large warehouses with over 100,00 square feet of space and 3,466 trucking companies. The biggest concentration is in South Los Angeles, above the ports, but there are clusters of trucking companies and warehouses located throughout the Southern California region regulated by the South Coast Air Quality Management District. Adequate electrical power supplies and charging stations will be needed at all of these nodes of intensive electricity demand. However, electric utilities have been slow in upgrading the electricity transmission infrastructure to serve these locations. This puts trucking companies in the untenable position of being required to convert to zero-emission trucks but not having adequate electric power to recharge the batteries that power the trucks.

The upside is that as utility companies ramp-up their infrastructure investments there will be local-hire opportunities for under-employed workers to obtain good jobs in the electrical sector. Workers who want jobs in electrical construction will need to have strong mathematical abilities, knowledge about building construction, mechanical systems, and technical plans, and manual skills for tasks such as threading wire through conduit and installing electrical components.

Decarbonisation measures are essential for addressing climate change, but there will be large impacts on the number and location of warehouse jobs, construction jobs, especially for electricians, and trucking jobs. Truck drivers who are owner-operators and small trucking companies will have especially difficult challenges in paying for new battery-powered trucks and the onsite equipment for charging the trucks.

Warehouses have a history of relocating to keep costs down and accommodate the changing needs of urban economies. Southern California needs better warehouse designs that benefit the surrounding communities more, create less noise and traffic congestion, provide better jobs and are capable of easily evolving to other uses as logistics demand shifts.

This project will identify the likely locations for warehouse development in urbanized areas of the Los Angeles region and future employment of warehouse workers. It will also identify the corridors where new electrical transmission lines and charging equipment must be built so that local government and advocates for logistics workers can hold utility companies accountable for expeditiously upgrading their electricity transmission infrastructure.

This will provide a framework for recruiting, training and employing workers in living-wage jobs in the electrical sector. Communities and labor organizations will also be able to use this information to establish design and employment standard for warehouses. This includes land use planning, design standards and outreach by labor unions to engage warehouse workers and advocate for equitable employment practices.