Lawsuit against CARB over 'flammable' DPFs hits courtroom

By Charlie Morasch, Land Line contributing writer | Thursday, January 08, 2015

An organization representing truck drivers in North California believes recent truck fires were caused by diesel particulate filters. It has evidence it plans to carry into court this week.

The Alliance for California Business has an ongoing civil lawsuit that seeks to stop California’s Truck and Bus Regulation, also known as the retrofit rule. The regulation 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 with cleaner and newer engines between 2012 and 2023.

The suit was filed in Glenn Superior Court in California. It argues the filters are mechanically flawed, have caused trucks to break down on highways, and pose a safety risk to truck drivers and the public. The Alliance has asked for a preliminary injunction to stop the regulation from being enforced.

On Friday, Jan. 9, Glenn Superior Court Judge Peter B. Twede is scheduled to hear the motion for a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the rule.

In a letter reportedly sent to CARB Board Member Sandra Berg, Bud Caldwell, president of the Alliance for California Business, said witnesses at a Natomas, Calif., truck stop watched flames from a truck spread to two adjacent trucks and destroy the three trucks.

The cause of the fires hasn’t been disclosed.

“But what we do know is that recent truck fires are more often traced to the engine compartment of the vehicle where the DPF device is located,” Caldwell wrote in the letter, according to the Appeal-Democrat. “Even where a fire appears to originate elsewhere, the DPF device functions like a matchstick in the 2,000 degrees in order to burn off soot. The surface temperature can be as high as 725 degrees.”

“Thankfully, these fires have not yet claimed any lives with every fire we hear about,” Caldwell wrote in the letter, the Appeal-Democrat reported. “Our first hope and concern is that the truck driver was able to jump out of the truck cab in time. It is, however, only a matter of time before the warning becomes a tragedy. What is CARB’s excuse going to be when that day arrives?”

In a letter posted to the organization’s website on Nov. 26, Caldwell and ACB Chairman of the Board Jim Paiva asked for donations to pay mounting legal bills. The letter said ACB has collected sworn declarations of monetary damage caused by DPFs to farmers, truckers, repair shops, equipment dealers, government entities and others. The organization also has lined up an automotive engineer with expertise in DPF devices to testify.

As enforcement of the Truck and Bus Rule has moved forward, the letter says, factions of compliant trucking companies and noncompliant companies have formed.

“CARB is pitting these two factions against each other,” the letter says. “This debate among those who should be united in purpose and mission has allowed CARB to ignore the most severe issue with these regulations, which are the safety and reliability of the mandated equipment on large diesel powered engines. … As Assemblyman Dan Logue said, ‘This isn’t about our filters, it’s about our freedom.’”

CARB amended the Truck and Bus Rule in April 2014 after many trucking companies protested the rule’s expensive compliance costs – billed as California’s highest-price truck emissions regulation to date.

Citing economic factors, CARB approved more time for small trucking companies to comply if they were rejected loans for new truck purchases.

For more information on how to comply with CARB’s Truck and Bus Rule, call the agency’s Diesel Hotline at 866-6DIESEL or 8666diesel@arb.ca.gov. CARB’s Truckstop website is available here.

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