Under fire, facing suit: CARB hears from truck owners

By Charlie Morasch, Land Line contributing writer | 12/9/2013

Already under fire from many in the trucking industry and facing a new lawsuit, the California Air Resources Board unveiled new exemptions and hinted it would consider other loopholes for its Truck and Bus Regulation last week.

Though CARB’s Truck and Bus Rule went into effect two years ago, most small trucking fleets haven’t been required to install diesel particulate filters or replace older trucks until January 2014.

As the deadline approached, complaints about the rule have increased. CARB has responded with a number of exemptions to help some truck owners.

CARB staff members heard plenty of complaints and ideas from truck owners during a workshop on CARB’s Truck and Bus Regulation held last week in Sacramento.

“If it would work, I’d like to see every truck shut down for two weeks and let everybody not have their fuel or food,” one truck owner told CARB at the workshop. “But that’s not reality. The reality is trucks are here, and they’re important.”

Another truck owner criticized CARB for not understanding the trucking business.

“You don’t understand how important trucks are to this state,” he said. “You say you do, but you’d all look pretty funny with no clothes on. Everything in this place is here because of a truck.”

The air quality agency gathered feedback and hinted that more flexibility could be coming for the rule, which requires a combination of diesel particulate filters and engine replacement in order to cut diesel soot emissions.

In November, CARB staff outlined a proposal to allow trucks that run 1,000 miles or less per year in the state to have an exemption from the Truck and Bus Rule. The exemption is also eligible for trucks that operate 5,000 miles or less annually. Trucks that are exempt from the rule must be registered in CARB’s system.

“If you report in the system that you have 95,000 miles on the truck, you can’t exceed 100,000,” the CARB staffer said during a workshop last week. “We don’t care whether they’re in California; that’s it, just 5,000 miles.”

The allowances may be too little too late.

Last week, OOIDA filed a civil lawsuit in federal court to stop CARB from enforcing the rule.

“They’ve come up with some exceptions to allow additional mileage without complying within the state,” OOIDA President Jim Johnston said last week. “But all the interpretations we’ve seen so far is that those exemptions would not provide any benefits for out-of-state truckers.”

Truck owners still have an opportunity to tell CARB what they think of the regulation.

CARB plans to host the fourth of its five workshops on the rule from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 10, at the Chula Vista Public Library in Chula Vista, Calif.

The final workshop is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 12, at the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District in Fresno, Calif. Members of the public may also participate by video conference at the air district’s offices in Bakersfield, Calif., and Modesto, Calif.

At a workshop held Wednesday, Dec. 4, staffers referenced a new proposal that would allow exemptions for trucks that operate in counties that meet air quality standards. Trucks that operate exclusively in counties defined as “NOx-exempt” or in the counties proposed to be NOx-exempt will be given until January 2015 to install a diesel particulate filter, CARB says. A map of the proposed change is available on page five of this document.

The Truck and Bus Rule requires most trucks to have a diesel particulate filter installed by Jan. 1, 2014. CARB recently announced a six-month extension for truck owners who show a good faith effort to purchase and install a filter.

During Wednesday’s workshop at CARB’s headquarters in Sacramento, one staff member said the workshops with truck owners weren’t being held to determine whether the rule would exist, but rather to look at additional ways the rule could be modified to work better for the industry.

“We’re looking at ways to amend the rule to make it easier for people to comply,” the staff member said. “At the end of the day, the cost of this rule is going to be paid by truckers, and we’re trying to find ways to make it as palatable as possible. But this is a tough rule and it is expensive.”

Chris Pisano told CARB his truck fleet has been reduced from 10 trucks in 2006 to a small fleet. Pisano said he has ordered a 2014 truck and said California should consider giving truck owners a sales tax credit to cover the cost of diesel particulate filters.

Staff members said the idea had merit, but said such a tax credit would have to come legislatively.

Late in Wednesday’s workshop, which was broadcast online, truck owners and CARB staffers disagreed about the air quality agency’s characterization of diesel emissions as a cancer-causing pollutant.

A CARB staffer acknowledged dissent about the risks of diesel emissions on public health from experts like UCLA professor and epidemiologist James Enstrom.

The staffer referenced the public shaming of CARB researcher Hien Tran, who admitted lying about having a Ph.D. in statistics from The University of California at Davis and in his report, “Methodology for Estimating Premature Death Associated with Long-Term Exposure to find Airborne Particulate Matter in California,” which was cited by CARB when it approved the Truck and Bus Rule.

However the Tran event unfolded, he said, the research behind the Truck and Bus Rule has proved to hold up.

Responding to one truck owner associated with a car-hauling business, the staff member summed up the reality of freight mileage rates for trucks that are California compliant.

“If you’re going to want to comply with the rule,” he said, “you’re going to have to charge more per mile.”

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