To help with diesel-rule compliance, Calif. Air Board gets trucker assist

A New Year’s Day 2014 deadline is fast approaching. Out-of-compliance diesel trucks – estimated to number in the tens of thousands – require engine replacement or retrofitting to meet strict California emissions standards. Either this or potentially hefty fines will be assessed, apparently. Meeting the deadline and therefore being in compliance, could very well be the New Year’s resolutions of myriad state truckers.

Diesel-smoke[1]“By Jan. 1, about 50,000 more heavy diesel trucks – including those of the smallest fleets, owner-operators and independent drivers that make up the bulk of the industry – will have to install diesel particulate filters or upgrade to newer, cleaner engines,” Tony Barboza in the Los Angeles Times in “Air Board has allies in diesel pollution crackdown: Truckers,” wrote.

The California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board (ARB) in making sure all so-affected trucking interests comply with the representative requirement has its work cut out, apparently.

But, interestingly, the ARB has had help coming from the industry itself.

“Truckers are also the No. 1 tipsters, placing anonymous calls and sending emails to finger competitors they say are gaining an unfair advantage by not upgrading their engines or installing expensive filters that capture harmful diesel particulates before they are released into the air,” the L.A. Times columnist wrote.

Considering, though, as Barboza pointed out “California’s rules, approved in 2008, faced stiff opposition from truckers and were relaxed two years later to give the industry more time to comply,” this is an interesting development.

It should be noted that per-truck installed corrective filtering equipment is not cheap and can cost as much as $10,000 or more, according to the L.A. Times columnist, and any interests can take it upon themselves at any time until the 2014 deadline to either incorporate the necessary diesel-engine upgrades or opt for outright engine replacement should such choose to go that route.

“‘Companies have invested millions of dollars only to be undercut by carriers that are choosing not to comply because they figure they won’t get caught,’ said Michael Shaw, a spokesman for the California Trucking Assn. ‘Without additional investment in enforcement … there’s little chance the Air Resources Board is going to do more than scratch the surface,’” Barboza wrote in citing Shaw. The Times columnist also explained that the ARB dispatches approximately 20 statewide enforcers per day to inspect trucks out in the field.

For those caught for non-compliance assessed fines can be anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars, according to the L.A. Times correspondent.

The way I see it, Casey Diaz in The Fresno Bee editorial “Cleaning the Valley air requires teamwork,” sums it best.

He expressed: “We believe that as a trucking firm, and as a Central Valley family, we have an important role to fill in helping make our air cleaner. This is why we’ve been active in helping find new ways to do business and in embracing new technology. We are working every year to put cleaner trucks on the road and to test new engines and fuels, like natural gas, for our fleet.”

– Alan Kandel