CARB approves some changes to help smaller trucking companies

By Charlie Morasch, Land Line contributing writer | 4/25/2014

Many small trucking companies struggling to upgrade and replace their trucks to meet California’s most expensive trucking rule may get more time to comply.

On Friday, April 25, the California Air Resources Board capped an intense two-day public hearing on proposed changes to the state’s Truck and Bus Regulation by approving a two-and-a-half year enforcement delay for small trucking companies who are denied a loan. Such companies will be required to install a diesel particulate filter by December 2016. For more information, click here.

California’s On-Road Truck and Bus Regulation was 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.

Trucking companies with one to three trucks protested last fall as an earlier deadline of December 2013 approached. CARB pushed the deadline out to June 2014, and said the April 24-25 meeting would include staff recommendations.

Citing economic factors, CARB proposed to allow small trucking companies more compliance time – including a new deadline of 2018 for small trucking companies that were rejected loans for new truck purchases.

The compliance extensions for small trucking companies angered many larger fleets who already have been required to come under compliance.

Multiple speakers at Thursday’s public hearing slammed CARB for sparking a civil war between large carriers and owner-operators that counted as small fleets under CARB’s definition. The large carriers said they didn’t like being put in a position to argue against mom and pop trucking operations – many of whom they hire.

“You guys have pitted us together, and now it’s turned into a battle,” said Doug Rocha, one of 100 members of the public who signed up to speak Thursday.

Several large fleet operators said CARB had promised that more restrictive emissions rules would bring a tide of higher freight rates. Owner-operators who hadn’t complied, they said, were driving those rates down.

“Some people are gonna have to be employees,” said Chris Torres, owner of F & L Farms Trucking. “They’re not gonna be able to be owner-operators anymore.”

A man identified as Mr. Beachler said he’s rejected public money to come into CARB compliance.

“I love owner-operators; they’re what makes America go round,” he said. “But I’m sorry for them. I’ve complied. I am $700,000 in debt. … You can’t keep changing the rules.”

Other large trucking company owners were more pointed in comments directed to owner-operators.

“Hey, they should come work for me,” said Bob Ramorino, president of Hayward, CA-based Roadstar Trucking. “They’d probably be better off.”

Such sentiments weren’t welcome to some gathered in the crowd.

“There is no way in hell me and my husband are going to ever work for these companies that were promising jobs here,” said Stacey Erb, who runs a horse-hauling trucking company. “There’s a reason they need drivers.”

Thursday’s hearing also sparked questions about CARB’s role in the California economy. Several DPF manufacturers worried they would lose jobs with less stringent timeframes for the Truck and Bus Rule.

“The ARB hasn’t looked at financial impacts for DPF manufacturers,” said Gary Simmons of Donaldson Filtration Systems.

Several members of the public questioned CARB’s estimates of 200,000 heavy-duty diesel trucks operating in the state and its estimate that 80 percent were CARB-compliant. Others said they didn’t believe in the agency’s research, bringing up the scandal surrounding a CARB staffer who admitted lying on his resume.

“People can keep raising these issues if they want to,” CARB Chairman Mary Nichols said. “But this is one of those situations where attacking the science isn’t going to get people the answer they want. It’s just not gonna go away.”

On Friday, CARB’s 12-member board voted on board member Sandra Berg’s motion to allow small fleets to comply by either purchasing a 2010 MY truck or an approved DPF by 2016 if they couldn’t obtain a loan.

“That gives people almost two-and-a-half years,” said Berg, who said she owns a big rig for use with her small business. The economy is recovering.”

Additional amendments to the rule include:

A longer phase-in period for diesel particulate matter requirements for trucks that operate “exclusively in certain rural areas with cleaner air; and
Adjusted schedules for low-use vehicles and certain work trucks;

The tense meeting did have a few light-hearted moments. 

When a group of 11 cattle-haulers donning western wear pleaded their case at the speaker’s microphone Thursday, one closed with “thank you for your time and happy trails.”

“If anyone wants to sing a chorus of happy trails, we’d love it,” Nichols said.

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