By Charlie Morasch, Land Line contributing writer | Thursday, September 24, 2015
A legal fight against California’s diesel particulate filter requirement isn’t over yet – but plaintiffs in the case worry that legal delays are preventing their case being made.
The Alliance for California Business has battled CARB in court over California’s Truck and Bus Rule – a multibillion-dollar rule that has banned trucks with pre-2007 model year engines and required DPFs on virtually all trucks hauling freight in the Golden State.
The organization is seeking an injunction against the Truck and Bus Rule to prevent its enforcement by CARB.
While CARB cites the rule’s success in limiting diesel particulate emissions, opponents say the filters’ combination of diesel fuel and temperatures reaching 1,500 degrees sometimes spark fires that have burned trucks and roadside acreage.
Earlier this year, the lawsuit appeared to hit a roadblock when Glenn County, Calif., Superior Court Judge Peter Twede denied the preliminary injunction. The Alliance for California Business has since compiled more information about recent fires and amassed a witness list that includes former diesel truck engineering experts.
During a Friday, Sept. 18 hearing, Judge Twede considered CARB’s latest request that the injunction be dismissed. The Alliance for California Business is responding to the request, and hopeful that the injunction request will go to trial. Truckers packed an Orland, Calif., courtroom to support the injunction effort.
Bud Caldwell, president of the Alliance for California Business and owner of 11 trucks, wants to get a day in court.
“They keep dragging us down the road by filing these appeals trying to get it thrown out,” Caldwell said in a phone interview Wednesday. “I want us to respond fast, giving CARB 30 days to respond to us. We can ask the judge for a date and show them what we’ve got.”
Caldwell said defendants’ attorneys pointed out truck owners have other judicial options to contest the DPF requirement. Individual lawsuits from truck drivers against a billion dollar government agency are a scenario only CARB would enjoy, Caldwell said.
“If a guy is out of compliance, he’s got no way to make a living,” Caldwell said. “That’s why we’re truckers and not surgeons. We don’t have the kind of time to wait around for lawsuits, and our customers don’t have that kind of time.”
The lawsuit is being supported financially by many agricultural truck owners, Caldwell said, many of whom are exempt. Caldwell said he has received phone calls from many other truck owners who support the injunction.
“The guys who are under the gun the most by this rule can’t afford to kick in money for legal bills,” he said.
In court, CARB and the California Attorney General’s Office have argued that truckers who feel their truck is unsafe because of DPFs can appeal for a waiver.
Caldwell’s organization is suggesting that truckers take up CARB’s suggestion that truckers fill out a DPF exemption request.
A link to CARB’s exemption form was included in an informational release the Alliance for California Business wrote to its members.
“On page 6, Truck and Bus is the link, ‘extension information,’” the release says. “A separate form is required for each exemption requested. Most of us are under the Truck and Bus rule, but all the categories are listed. You may not have any issues with the INSTALLATION of the DPF, but for concerns with the operation of the OPERATION of your DPF, this is the method and format and forms to use. … Please rush the application to CARB as it will help us a great deal.”
CARB’s administrative process may be stacked against truck owners, Caldwell admitted.
“We’ve had engineers say the DPFs are unsafe; we have 31 fires we’ve asked them to investigate,” Caldwell said. “They haven’t investigated one nor do they plan to. So how is an individual trucker going to prove to CARB that their truck is unsafe when CARB is the judge, jury and hangman?”
CARB has declined to comment on the case due to ongoing litigation.
Caldwell has purchased five new trucks in the last two years to remain compliant with California’s Truck and Bus Rule. He said the recent Volkswagen diesel scandal pales in comparison to the danger presented by DPFs on trucks.
“This is America, dammit – and this is wrong,” Caldwell said. “They’re doing something way more unsafe than what Volkswagen did and they’re getting away with it.”
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