Food ministry, CARB clash over truck

By Charlie Morasch, Land Line contributing writer | Thursday, January 29, 2015

Only seven miles from one another, the California Air Resources Board and Sacramento’s New Hope Community Church each have stated missions of serving and protecting their communities.

Since 2007, the church’s Gift of Groceries food ministry has helped hundreds of economically disadvantaged families in Sacramento’s Meadowview neighborhood receive weekly helpings of food.

More than 200 families arrive to pick up bread, meat, dairy and produce when available. During that same eight years, CARB’s diesel emission-slashing Truck and Bus Rule has been proposed, adopted and amended.

After several enforcement delays, the rule has nearly made the food ministry’s diesel box truck illegal to drive in California. When the church completed its annual registration with the state last fall, ministry leaders were told the 14-foot 1993 Mitsubishi truck would be banned from operating in California in 2015.

California’s Truck and Bus Regulation – billed as the state’s most expensive truck rule to date – 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 having cleaner and newer engines between 2012 and 2023.

Ed Conner, who leads the Gift of Groceries food ministry at Sacramento’s New Hope Community Church, grew up in the neighborhood surrounding the church. Conner said he and his sister were able to obtain jobs and provide for their families, though many in the community face difficult odds accomplishing the same.

“It’s a very poor area of Sacramento,” Conner said. “We understand as members of this community the importance of having clean air. But it sure seems to be at the detriment of a lot of nonprofit organizations. It’s a shame. I would have hoped they would have left alone small operators that are just scraping by – that they would give them an exemption of some sort.”

Beth White, who is managing the implantation of the Truck and Bus Rule for CARB, agreed that both entities are working for the public good including disadvantaged residents. White pointed out, however, that using an older truck with more emissions may hurt the very population the church aims to help.

“They’re serving a critical population, too,” White said. “The elderly, the children – their exposure to diesel particulate matter is of great importance to us.”

Other churches have run into the Truck and Bus Rule’s requirements as well.

CARB heard concern from churches that have “white bus” fleets to bring congregations for church services, White said. When the rule was amended in April 2014, CARB pushed the low-use exemption for the rule from 1,000 to 5,000 miles annually.

“That really helped them out a lot,” White said of churches.

Karen Caesar, CARB spokeswoman, confirmed that CARB staff including White have offered to help the food ministry register its truck and use an exemption for work trucks in order to allow additional time to replace the truck and remain compliant until November 2015. If the truck isn’t registered in CARB’s online reporting system by Saturday, Jan. 31, it immediately becomes illegal to operate.

“We really are trying to help here,” Caesar said. “We do back up what we say because we have help available.”

CARB’s White said the ministry may likely qualify for the rule’s exemption for work trucks. The exemption allows up to 20,000 miles annually.

Like many California trucking businesses, the church also is hurt by the rule’s effect on the secondary market. No one in the Golden State wants a truck that is illegal to drive.

“We’re gonna have to scrap it or try to sell it out of state,” Conner said.

The Gift of Groceries obtained a $25,000 grant toward the purchase of a truck. Conner said the ministry is searching for a 24-foot 2007 or newer box truck with reefer. Such a truck would allow the ministry to efficiently arrange pickup of donated milk, produce and meat and make fewer trips to warehouses. Unfortunately, he said, many trucks that meet those specs fall in the $55,000 to $70,000 price range.

Without a replacement, the food ministry may be parked, Conner said.

“That’s the ultimate outcome if we aren’t able to get a replacement truck by November,” Conner said. “

Conner said the church will consider trucks with newer engines or different sizes.

“If you hear somebody that needs to get rid of a newer box truck, let us know,” he said. “We’re not picky.”

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