CARB: California clean idle may be short lived

| 2/8/2008

For months, engine manufacturers worked to develop a heavy-duty diesel truck engine to enable drivers to idle in California and travel to other states without having engine control software that would shut the engine down after five motionless minutes.

Model ’08 truck engines that emitted 30 grams of NOx per hour of idling were considered “clean idle” by California standards, as long as other emissions didn’t increase as a result. The engine makers preferred building one version of each truck engine eligible to drive in all 50 states rather than engines certified especially for California.

California is now reconsidering allowing any idling, even for engines with 30 grams or less of NOx, employees of the California Air Resources Board announced during a recent meeting.

A CARB spokeswoman confirmed the agency’s consideration of banning all idling.

“Nothing has been formalized, but it’s an idea we expect to consider at some point in the future,” CARB Spokeswoman Karen Caesar told Land Line in an e-mail.

Most currently enforced truck emission regulations in California were enacted before the state approved AB32 in 2006. The law addresses global warming, and gave CARB power to aggressively mandate reductions in greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide in order to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020.

The news stunned engine manufacturers, according to Joe Suchecki, a spokesman with the Engine Manufacturers Association. Engine makers have been working with CARB to meet the new standard and spent much time and money on research and development for their own versions of the “California clean idle” engine.

“That’s a lot of stranded costs manufacturers would lose,” Suchecki told Land Line. “Manufacturers in good faith developed that kind of engine and we certainly would not want to see them take that option away at this point in time.”

CARB developed the clean idle standard as a way for manufacturers to avoid activating engine shutdown software on ECMs of 2008 MY trucks traveling in California.

2008 manufacture year engines on trucks traveling in California that don’t meet the idling standard must have the ECM programmed to shut down after five minutes with the parking brake on, or after 15 minutes in traffic. The shutoff feature would re-time after an engine’s gear is shifted.

Truck makers were prepared to meet customer demand of the clean idle standard for a variety of reasons, Suchecki said.

Long haulers from other regions may make occasional trips into the Golden State and truckers have noticed a trend of other states following California’s lead and adopting strict emission rules.

“I think there was a feeling that that would be the preferred option for many customers – to meet the low-NOx standard,” Suchecki said.

Suchecki said Chicago-based EMA will continue to work with CARB, and hopes the agency will uphold the clean idle standard.

“Certainly (CARB reversing its stance) is something we would not like to see happen since they developed a requirement and people have done work and invested research and development to meet that requirement,” Suchecki said.

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer