A controversial rulemaking being considered by the Environmental
Protection Agency would have devastating consequences for truckers nationwide
who pull reefers into California, according to officials throughout the
The new standards proposed by the California Air Resources Board – or
CARB – would require transport refrigeration units, known as reefers to
truckers, to meet stricter performance and emissions standards before they
could be used in the state.
The comment period closed Feb. 6. The EPA has not indicated when a
final decision will be made.
If the rule is enacted, all trucks pulling reefers within California –
regardless of whether the truck is baseplated there – would be required to meet
the tighter standards. For 2001 model year and older units, the standards would
have to be met by 2008; for 2002 models and newer, the deadline would be 2009.
Reefer units with less than a 25-horsepower engine would have to be
certified at 0.30 gallons per horsepower-hour, and units with more than a
25-horsepower engine would have to be certified at 0.22 gallons per
horsepower-hour, according to CARB documents. Emissions on 2001 and older units
must reduce emissions by 50 percent, while 2002 and newer units must reduce by
If a truck’s reefer does not meet the new requirements, CARB proposes
that the owner be required to either replace or retrofit the unit before it can
be used in California. That has an estimated cost to the truck owner of $2,000
The new requirements were met with staunch criticism by owner-operators,
fleet owners and trucking industry groups alike.
In comments filed with the EPA, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers
Association said the move would be a financial hardship for small-business
truckers, especially those who live out of state and/or don’t regularly haul
loads in California.
“The standards, which impose
an unwarranted burden on all out-of-state TRU owners and operators, place a
particularly onerous financial burden on small business truckers,” said OOIDA
President Jim Johnston in the Association’s comments.
“Small fleet owners with 20
or fewer trucks make up approximately 95 percent of the industry. Further,
these small business truckers typically operate on small profit margins without
any extra equipment, a situation that would not allow them to segregate
equipment for California and non-California operations.”
In a survey, more than
two-thirds of OOIDA members who haul refrigerated loads said they bought used
reefer equipment because of high equipment costs, making CARB’s proposed
standards difficult to abide by.
“Having made the purchase,
these owner-operators and small fleet owners are not likely to replace
refrigerated trailers as often as larger operations,” Johnston said. “As
recognized by the CARB, some TRUs are in use for 20 or even 30 years. Thus the
additional financial burdens of early replacement could be prohibitive for this
group of TRU owners and operators.”
Additionally, Johnston said CARB’s data-collecting method, which found
that only 7,500 reefer units used in the state are from outside California, is flawed, because it assumes that this number does not adjust for the total
number of individual reefers entering the state each year.
In fact, a similar survey by the American Trucking Associations found
the actual number of out-of-state reefers that operate in California each year
is approximately 223,000 – almost 30 times CARB’s estimate. ATA also filed
comments opposing the proposal.
“For any significant motor carrier or trailer leasing operation,
economic necessity dictates that each TRU truck van and semi-trailer in the
fleet be able to service any potential destination,” ATA said in its comments.
“Otherwise, a unit dropping off a load in Kansas City, for example, would not
be eligible to carry the next load waiting there, and instead may have to drive
hundreds of miles to find another load, while a California-eligible unit would
have to drive a significant distance unloaded to pick up the Kansas City
“The model assumed by CARB, without any analysis or empirical support,
is directly at odds with the business model described in these comments that is
used by the trucking industry to respond to the market demand for goods and
– By Aaron Ladage, staff writer