Can CARB make out-of-state reefer owners upgrade equipment?

| 4/22/2011

Tony Ahlers couldn’t believe the letter he received from the California Air Resources Board.

Ahlers, a 33-year-old owner operator and OOIDA member from Laurens, IA, was caught in February at a Bakersfield scale house while running a 2001 model year engine reefer.

Yes, the air quality agency would accept his $1,000 fine for violating the state’s TRU (reefer) Rule in February.

However, CARB stated, Ahlers also would be required to upgrade the reefer and prove he had upgraded it – regardless of whether he enters California again. Regardless of whether his reefer continues to meet emissions standards in 49 states.

“In order to clear this Notice of Violation, you must send proof of correction in the form of an invoice for the installation of … a compliant TRU or a Diesel Emission Control System.

CARB fines in-state companies for failing to be registered with its TRU registration system up to $500 for each occurrence, and the agency fines “in-use performance violations” up to $1,000. Repeat offenders can be fined up to $75,000.

CARB’s reefer rule allows for a seven-year gap between the current year and oldest reefer engines allowed. For instance, 2004 and newer reefer engines don’t need to be replaced or retrofitted, but 2003 model year engines do.

For more information, visit CARB’s TRU web site by clicking here.

A CARB spokesman relayed a statement that repeated Ahlers’ bad news: The reefer must be upgraded, regardless of the fine being paid.

“ARB’s enforcement policy on TRU ATCM violations is to offer a fine that is considerably less than the statutorily allowed,” CARB told Land Line Magazine. “The rig must also be brought into compliance within 60 days. If not done and the rig is caught again, the violation is elevated to willful and intentional violation and the fine could go up to $75,000.”

“I really can’t afford to quit going out there,” Ahlers said. “My fleet is my bread and butter, and we have direct freight out of Iowa going to the West Coast, and direct freight coming back from California to the Midwest.”

An expert on trucking law, attorney James Mennella of Oklahoma City, OK-based Road Law, told Land Line that a company cited for violating CARB’s reefer rule would need to upgrade the equipment before operating it again in California.

If a company stayed out of California, the answer might be different, Mennella said.

“If there will be no further travels to California, then the matter may be able to be negotiated to just pay the fine and not come into compliance with the ARB,” Mennella said.

Ahlers decided this week to purchase and install a 2011 motor on his reefer. The upgrade cost him $7,500, bringing the total cost of his citation to $8,500.

California emissions rules punish owner-operators and small trucking companies that maintain their equipment better than others, Ahlers said.

“And I’ve already sent off the thousand bucks,” Ahlers said Wednesday. “I still don’t think they’re concerned with the environmental reasoning as much as they are with the cash flow.”

For more of Land Line’s coverage on CARB’s reefer rule, click here.