SPECIAL REPORT: OOIDA calls for suspension of CARB regs

| 12/4/2009

Friday, Dec. 4, 2009 – OOIDA President Jim Johnston has called on the California Air Resources Board to suspend upcoming enforcement dates for two major emissions rules, which are about to be enforced.

In a letter sent to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and CARB Chairman Mary Nichols, Johnston said enforcement of the state’s drayage rule and Transport Refrigerated Unit rules should be delayed because of the ongoing economic recession combined with the air quality agency’s emerging scandal, which “calls into question the legitimacy of the regulatory process used.”

“Considering our nation’s deep economic recession and the havoc it is wreaking on owner-operators and small-business motor carriers both in California and outside the state, I respectfully request that you grant an extension of the enforcement dates. This would allow more time for owner-operators and small-business motor carriers to access federal funding opportunities that have yet to be disbursed,” Johnston wrote.

The CARB port drayage rule is scheduled to prohibit pre-1994 model year truck engines from being used on trucks at the port beginning on Jan. 1, 2010. The reefer, or TRU rule, requires trucks that haul reefers in California to meet the equipment portion of the state’s “In-Use Performance Standards” for 2001 and older reefers beginning on Dec. 31, 2009.

OOIDA’s request comes on the heels of a major scandal breaking this week in which it was shown that CARB’s project team leader for developing its most expensive rule to date – the truck and bus retrofit rule – falsely claimed his education credentials.

While Johnston referenced the scandal in his letter, the nation’s economic crisis and particularly California’s down economy make a delay in the rules’ enforcement necessary, he said.

CARB recently announced that many truck owners who obtained government grants to pay for emissions upgrades have been given a four-month extension to meet the port drayage rule. OOIDA believes that extension provides a particularly unfair advantage to some motor carriers.

“The deepest economic recession since the 1970s has placed the economic viability of many owner-operators and small-business truckers at significant risk,” Johnston wrote.

“The high failure rate of trucking companies in this economy is well documented, and those not fortunate enough to secure public grants to aid in the high cost of compliance are placed in an unfair disadvantage versus their competitors (many who are larger motor carriers) that have received various forms of government aid.”

Johnston pointed out that CARB granted an extension on the TRU rule in July out of concern for many truckers not being able to meet the original compliance date, and noted “that fact is still true.”

In addition, two CARB board members have publicly called for the suspension of the truck and bus rule to “re-establish the public trust,” Johnston wrote. “An extension would be viewed by many as a goodwill effort by the State of California while the Board sorts through the implications of the fraud.”

OOIDA has more than 157,000 members nationally and more than 5,500 members in California.

In e-mails sent between CARB board members, Nichols and a head of the California EPA, CARB researcher Hien Tran was revealed to not have a degree, though the agency and state officials defended him publicly.

CARB’s truck and bus retrofit rule was approved partly because of Tran’s research in the report, “Methodology for Estimating Premature Death Associated with Long-Term Exposure to Find Airborne Particulate matter in California.” In the report, Tran falsely claimed that he had a Ph.D. in statistics from The University of California at Davis.

Tran purportedly confessed on Dec. 10, one day before CARB’s December 2008 board meeting began, and two days before the board approved its most expensive rule yet – the truck and bus retrofit rule.

“I believe the legitimacy of the (truck and bus rule) vote to be in question,” wrote CARB Board member John Telles, a cardiologist, in a letter to CARB’s chief counsel.

Later, he said a “fundamental violation of procedure,” combined with the agency’s failure to reveal that information to the board before it voted to approve the truck and bus measure “not only casts doubt upon the legitimacy of the truck rule, but also upon the legitimacy of CARB itself.”

CARB’s Nichols apparently knew that the researcher lied but withheld that information from most of the board for nearly a year.

Two CARB board members have criticized the agency as a whole for the research scandal and apparent cover-up.

CARB is scheduled to hold its December meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 9.

To read a copy of Johnston’s letter, click here.

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer