Low-mileage exemption for California? Depends on what you're hauling

By Charlie Morasch, Land Line contributing writer | 5/2/2014

Truck owners who rarely haul in California may be exempt from the state’s expensive Truck and Bus Regulation and its requirements.

Predicted to cost the industry more than $1 billion, the Truck and Bus 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.

At CARB’s April 25 monthly board meeting, the air quality agency formally approved multiple exemptions from the Truck and Bus Rule that will last until the year 2020. More than 100 members of the public commented on the rule – most sharing their approval or disagreement over CARB’s eventual decision to allow fleets of three trucks or smaller to delay emissions upgrades until the end of 2016.

A closer look at multiple low-mileage exemptions approved by the board, however, reveals a number of changes that will help truck owners in specific niche markets.

Most notable for owner-operators and long haulers who rarely go into the Golden State is an exemption for trucks that travel less than 1,000 miles annually in California. Trucks that travel 5,000 or less total miles annually in any state, including California, are exempt from the regulation until 2020. In an informational packet CARB provided to the board, CARB staff explained that it also was lifting a proposed requirement that would limit the number of hours trucks can spend in California while stationary. To qualify for low use exemption, vehicle must be reported. The provision is closed for 2014, but will re-open for 2015.

“The proposed amendment expands the number of trucks that can use the exemption temporarily for the lowest use vehicles, and as a result both defers and reduces compliance costs for these vehicles and allows fleet owners to prioritize upgrades of higher use vehicles,” CARB staff wrote.

For dedicated work trucks, CARB approved the addition of a broader mileage exemption: work trucks and construction trucks that travel less than 20,000 miles per year annually. A new phase-in schedule requires work truck owners to add diesel particulate filters between 2015 and 2018.

“This amendment would provide a lower-cost pathway to compliance for vehicles and equipment that are deployed in many vocations that demand application-specific configurations with substantial added cost,” reads the CARB staff report to the board.

Low-mileage agricultural trucks used on farms also saw an extension. Trucks reported under this extension will be allowed to operate up to 15,000 miles per year between 2017 and 2020, and to 2023 if they operate less than 10,000 miles per year. These extended trucks must meet rule requirements in January, 2023.

Agricultural trucks with 1995 and older model year engines may drive up to 15,000 miles annually until 2020. Trucks with 1996 through 2005 model year engines may drive up to 20,000 miles until 2017, and trucks with 2006 or newer engine model year may drive up to 25,000 miles until 2017.

Agricultural trucks that operate less than 10,000 miles annually would be allowed to continue using the exemption until 2023.

CARB’s proposed exemptions for livestock haulers also was expanded by staff, even before a group of 11 representatives of the industry ambled to the microphone to issue public comments in hats, vests and, presumably, boots, on April 24.

Livestock trucks now fall under the agricultural truck extensions, and were given other time extensions available on CARB’s website

Livestock trucks are owned by ranchers and a small number of specialty haulers who drive seasonally to and from California, CARB staff reasoned. Most of their miles are driven in rural areas that have cleaner air.

“This proposed change would recognize that while in-state and out-of-state cattle livestock haulers typically operate more miles than are permitted under the low mileage agricultural vehicle provisions…they are being significantly impacted by market conditions, and that mileage from these trucks in California is likely to be significantly depressed for several years.”

Heavy cranes were also given additional time extensions under the rule amendments. CARB’s newly adopted schedule requires heavy cranes to be upgraded to 2010 model year or newer engines at a rate of 10 percent annually by fleet.  A crane owner with a fleet of one would have until 2022 to upgrade to a 2010 engine.  Cranes that have a diesel particulate filter by 2018 will also get a time credit for meeting the 2010 engine requirement.

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