SPECIAL REPORT: CARB develops new rules for all trucking in CA

| 10/24/2008

Friday, Oct. 24, 2008 – The California Air Resources Board latest and arguably most powerful rules affecting heavy-duty diesel trucks are completed and heading toward adoption as of Friday.

Basically, there are two rules. One is officially the Diesel Truck and Bus Regulation. It’s also referred to as the retrofit rule or the in-use on-road rule. The other is sometimes called the greenhouse gas rule or the EPA SmartWay rule. The two rules are estimated to cost trucking companies an estimated $4.4 to $5.4 billion.

The retrofit rule divides trucking companies into two categories: fleets of four or more trucks and fleets of 3 or less, each which must meet different emissions standards between 2012 and 2022.

The SmartWay rule requires trucks to use after-market products approved by the EPA’s voluntary SmartWay program, which aims to increase efficiency and aerodynamics.

CARB will formally consider adopting both rules during its Dec. 11-12 meeting.

A news release was sent to reporters around the nation Friday stating that the latest draft of the two rules had been made public, but they weren’t posted as of 3 p.m. central time Friday.

CARB refers to its retrofit rule as the in-use on-road diesel truck rule, which phases in model year engine emission requirements continually for any trucks traveling on state highways.

The retrofit rule would require trucks to meet 2007 and 2010 emissions standards between 2012 and 2022, though it allows for a series of compliance options. The regulation addresses both diesel particulate matter and oxides of nitrogen.

Fleets of up to three vehicles are exempt from the rule’s engine performance requirements in 2010 and 2011, meaning one truck from those small companies must meet 2004 emissions standards by Dec. 31, 2012, and would be exempt from additional particulate matter changes until 2017. By Dec. 31, 2017, the truck must be replaced by one meeting 2010 engine emissions requirements. A company with three or fewer trucks would then upgrade engines for the rest of its trucks between 2013 and 2022.

“We’ve worked hard to make the rule as flexible and cost friendly as we can,” CARB Chairman Mary Nichols said Friday.

The greenhouse gas rule essentially requires truck owners to install a number of elements of the Environmental Protection Agency’s SmartWay program. SmartWay is a voluntary program that encourages companies to use SmartWay-certified and approved products designed to be diesel efficient. The products include trucks and trailers designed to be aerodynamic, and after-market kits for fairings and side skirts.

CARB’s greenhouse gas regulation allows fleets and companies to mix and match certain Smart Way options to be diesel efficient.

The greenhouse gas regulation would be enforced for drivers, company owners, motor carriers and California-based “businesses that ship or receive freight” in 53-foot or longer box trailers.

The proposed greenhouse gas reduction measure would exempt local haul businesses that operate within 100 miles of company headquarters or that don’t exceed 50,000 miles driven per year; emergency vehicles; and drayage tractors that stay within 100 miles of a port or yard.

More information on the greenhouse gas rule is available here.

The retrofit rule, and its blanket requirements for all trucks traveling in California, is the most powerful rule the state’s environmental agency has ever approved, said Erik White, CARB’s chief of heavy duty diesel in-use strategies branch.

“This is the most comprehensive rule certainly, we’ve proposed,” White said. “It’s the most far-reaching in terms of scope, I would argue.”

The concessions made for smaller businesses came after much outcry from transportation companies.

“When we first started down this process, I don’t think we realized just how many independent owner-operators there were that are out there,” White said.

Although environmental regulations on trucks at California ports have been challenged in the courts, CARB believes it is regulating within the law, White told Land Line.

“We have looked at our authority to develop his regulation within state law, and whether or not there are any issues surrounding Interstate commerce,” he said. “We don’t expect that there are any issues surrounding interstate commerce with the proposal. We may get challenged, but we’ll address those issues when and if it happens.”

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer