California accepts comments on mandatory aerodynamics until Monday

| 9/18/2007

California officials want trucks and trailers to be equipped with aerodynamic fairings and automatic tire inflation systems. They also want every truck stop parking space to be electrified and they want to triple fines for violations of next year’s five-minute idling limit.

The California Air Resources Board is scheduled to consider those strategies and 41 others in the agency’s greenhouse gas reduction plan at next month’s board meeting.

CARB staff presented the amendments at a workshop Monday and acknowledged the rapid adoption process of regulations that the agency has discussed little with trucking companies, trade associations and others who will be affected by the rules.

“Snowmelt and spring blooms advanced two days per decade since 1955 and these impacts are just projected to get worse,” said CARB staffer Mike Robert. “This is a world I feel we can’t allow to materialize. We must act and we must act now.”

Earlier this month, CARB Chairwoman Mary Nichols announced the agency had increased its “discrete early action items” – rules CARB plans to enforce by Jan. 1, 2010 – from three to nine and to move forward on a total of 44 early action measures to be enforced between 2010 and 2020.

CARB also plans to beef up anti-idling enforcement and triple the agency’s $100 fines to $300 for drivers caught violating the five-minute idling limit, which is set to take effect Jan. 1, 2008.

Truckers, companies, trade associations and the general public have only until Monday, Sept. 24, to submit comments on the regs before they’re drawn up and formally presented to CARB.

Comments can be made on the Web by clicking here. For more information, visit the CARB Web site here.

CARB is fast-tracking requirements that trucks traveling in the state be retrofitted with cab fairings, gap fairings, trailer skirts and single-wide tires to improve fuel efficiency, and plans to require some type of tire inflation monitoring or automatic inflation system by 2010.

The draft plan regulation said the agency could phase in the faring requirement until 100 percent of trucks would meet the requirement by 2013.

Industry advocates attending the workshop said they were willing to work with the state, though officials with the California Trucking Association told Land Line Tuesday, Sept. 18, that they plan to question several items in the amendments when they issue comments.

CTA is concerned about CARB’s simultaneous promulgating of rules to boost fuel efficiency and a rule requiring truck engine retrofits that drag fuel mileage down, said Matt Schrap, CTA’s manager of environmental affairs.

Schrap acknowledged his surprise in the hurried pace CARB took in announcing and receiving comments on the amendments over a 10-day span before the agency’s board plans to approve further action in October.

“I will admit that it was fast,” Schrap told Land Line on Tuesday. “I think it has a lot to do with political pressure, community pressure, global pressure. California has always been looked at as the beacon of inspiration for emissions reductions and they’re attempting to fill that role. We see some serious concerns.”

Many of CTA’s concerns are due to a lack of specificity of how the new regs will be implemented and enforced, Schrap said.

The SmartWay Program – started originally as a volunteer program by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – aims to improve fuel economy by using aerodynamic truck and trailer add-ons.

CARB’s proposed SmartWay program requirement plan suggests giving truckers financial incentives, yet admits that the technology may not work at many loading docks, provides fuel savings only for long-haul trucks, and doesn’t address how trucks that don’t haul their own trailers will be fitted.

“They have not said which trucks and which trailers they’re planning on doing besides ‘all trucks,’ ” Schrap said. “That’s a little over the top considering they are not effective in all duty cycles.”

CARB estimates that adding either shore power or IdleAire-like direct access of heat and air conditioning to California’s remaining 6,600 truck stop spaces and 1,300 Caltrans rest area spaces would cost between $49.5 million and $132 million.

California ranked 47 out of 49 states in its ratio of commercial parking spaces in a 2002 study by the Federal Highway Administration.

Looking ahead
Other early action measures include requiring electric-powered reefers at distribution centers and grocery stores and requiring electric hybrid medium and heavy-duty trucks and cars and light duty trucks. Those measures are considered to be not ready for implementation until after 2010, though CARB can speed up those time frames.

Trucking regulations are only a fraction of the greenhouse gas regulation’s amendments. Also included are plans to require “cool” automotive paints aimed at lowering use of vehicle air conditioning systems, encourage replacement of older personal refrigerators and restrictions on aerosol in products like silly string.

Edwin Lombard of the California Black Chamber of Commerce urged CARB to recognize the limited resources small business owners like truckers have to invest in equipment.

“If you provide them with a voluntary early action program they can get started,” Lombard said. “If they have to wait and then pull the trigger quickly – they’re not going to be able to do so.”

Joe Suchecki of the Engine Manufacturer’s Association, said manufacturers have maintained engine performance and fuel economy while adjusting for lower emissions in recent years but said fuel economy depends on other factors such as driving technique.

Suchecki paused before addressing the agency’s staff members.

“Obviously you folks already have as much regulatory authority as you need,” he said.

One speaker at Monday’s workshop was thrilled about the new rules.

Andrew Smith, CEO of Advance Transit Dynamics – which plans to build fairings and other aerodynamic features to meet CARB requirements – spoke glowingly of the technology and his understanding that it could improve mileage by up to 6 percent.

Smith said his company has come up with a fairing that covers trailer doors but collapses out of the way to allow the doors to open.

“Most importantly, it looks cool,” Smith said.

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer