California pollution control board supports ‘truck weight reform’

By Charlie Morasch, Land Line staff writer | 1/30/2009

An air quality district in California is in support of heavier truckloads in order to cut emissions, a position that OOIDA says is ineffective.

One district official said the agency is open to all arguments on the issue.

Recently the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District Governing Board formally endorsed a plan to increase truck weights on federal highways to 97,000 pounds for commercial trucks hauling raw agriculture commodities and forest products. The endorsement is the first such move made to endorse the heavier weight mission, requested by the Agricultural Transportation Efficiency Coalition (AgTEC).

The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District is a regional environmental agency that oversees eight counties in the San Joaquin Valley Air Basin, including the largest agricultural production region in California.

Board members approved the endorsement because they’re looking for any ways to reduce emissions and hadn’t seen counterarguments to longer/heavier truckloads, said Tom Jordan, senior policy advisor with the air quality district.

AgTEC representatives told the air district’s board that safety concerns for longer/heavier can be addressed by adding brakes and axles, but the board offered its endorsement of the measure only with the caveat that all road maintenance and safety concerns be addressed.

“Trucks are such a large source of emissions, and getting reductions is going to be challenging,” Jordan told Land Line. “Looking at technology, and incentives and ways to reduce numbers of trucks – we see all those as part of the strategy to meet federal air quality standards. Since (trucking) is not our area of expertise, the board put those caveats on the issue.”

Jordan said the air district would be open to hearing opposing views on the longer/heavier issue.

“We’d be glad to talk to anybody. The big thing from our perspective is we’re working on a variety of strategies to reduce truck emissions,” Jordan said. “This is one of the ones someone brought to us, but we’d be happy to hear other perspectives as well.”

Allowing increased weights for trucks is falsely argued as an emissions-cutting strategy, but it may actually damage air quality, said Joe Rajkovacz, regulatory affairs specialist for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.

Recent regulations added by the California Air Resources Board are poised to make deep emission cuts already, Rajkovacz said.

“In the case of California’s central valley, stringent statewide diesel emissions rules will already significantly eliminate both PM and NOx emissions from all trucks regardless of whether they run empty or loaded,” Rajkovacz said. “Increasing the permissible allowable weight to 97,000 will undeniably cause a diversion of intermodal freight currently moved via rail back onto the highway, thus eliminating any perceived environmental benefit. That movement of freight from rail back to the highway could increase air pollution.”

To read OOIDA’s testimony before Congress on truck weight and length, click here.

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer

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