In reversal of roles, eyes of trucking will be on CARB this week

By Charlie Morasch, Land Line contributing writer | 4/23/2014

Truck drivers throughout North America know they are watched for incompliant trucks, reefer trailers and other diesel engines every time they cross into the state of California.

This week, however, many throughout the trucking industry will be watching the California Air Resources Board as it examines exemptions and timelines for administering its Truck and Bus Regulation.

The Truck and Bus Rule is CARB’s most expensive air quality regulation to date and is predicted to cost the trucking industry billions of dollars in truck replacement or retrofit work. The rule requires most trucks and buses with a gross vehicle weight rating greater than 14,000 pounds to be upgraded either with diesel particulate filters or by upgrading to cleaner and newer engines between 2012 and 2023.

CARB is scheduled to consider amendments to the Truck and Bus Rule early in its meeting beginning at 9 a.m. Thursday, April 24, in Sacramento. The meeting will be webcast here.

The amendments would add flexibility for fleets of three trucks and smaller and trucks that drive only in areas with improved air quality metrics.

The changes include:

  • A longer phase-in period for diesel particulate matter requirements for trucks that operate “exclusively in certain rural areas with cleaner air;
  • Additional time and a lower cost route for all small fleet owners to meet their particulate matter compliance requirements by upgrading one truck this year, two by 2016 and three by 2018;
  • A new compliance route for fleet owners who don’t currently qualify for a loan to make emissions upgrades;
  • Adjusted schedules for low-use vehicles and certain work trucks; and
  • The recognition of fleet owners who already upgraded their trucks to comply by providing “additional ‘useable life’ for retrofit trucks and reducing near-term compliance requirements.”

For more information on the proposed changes, click here.

CARB heard widespread complaints as new deadlines for the Truck and Bus Rule approached last fall. The air quality agency responded by pushing back the deadline and directing staff to create alternatives.

“The trucking community spoke and we listened,” CARB Chairman Mary Nichols said in March, according to CARB’s news release. “The good news is that we will not have to sacrifice the state/s air quality goals to assist fleet owners.”

California’s economic recession has resulted in lower emissions from diesel big rigs, and CARB has acknowledged the weakened economy in forming the proposed amendments.

In the packet of meeting agenda items and presentations CARB staff prepares for board members, the staff said the “proposed amendments would continue to meet California’s air quality obligations under the federal Clean Air Act” and the goals of the state’s Diesel Risk Reduction plan.

The amendments would save truck owners about $400 million in truck replacement and upgrade costs.

“On balance, staff believes the proposed new flexibilities are reasonable and consistent with a rebalanced compliance approach for fleets still suffering from the impacts of the economic recession,” staff wrote.

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