Golden Rules

Max Kvidera | December 01, 2011

Furthermore, research shows that the skirts achieve the tested fuel efficiency at 62 mph. Yet the speed limit for trucks in the state is 55 mph, Shaw notes.

In formulating its rules, CARB has imposed numerous amendments and deadline changes that have often confused truckers, says Joe Rajkovacz, director of regulatory affairs at the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. “It’s not surprising to me there’s not the awareness in the trucking community of the timelines and compliance schedules,” he says.

Rajkovacz says he’s taken calls from operators who have quit hauling to California because of the regulatory environment. “Guys have to make serious choices by the end of the year if California is going to be part of their business model,” Rajkovacz says, “or they could find themselves facing much earlier compliance deadlines.”

Debra Dunn, president of the Oregon Trucking Association, says it’s hard for carriers to ignore California because of its $1.8 trillion economy. “If they could’ve turned over their fleets in the normal process of doing business, they would’ve preferred it that way than being required to do it in any one state.”

CARB has done a good job at involving trucking in the rulemaking process, says Tony Brasil, chief of the heavy duty diesel implementation branch of the agency. He says in advance of the statewide truck and bus rule, CARB mailed postcards to 180,000 fleets registered in the state, as well as state trucking groups and the American Trucking Associations. The agency schedules workshops across the state and presents webcasts of those sessions. It also meets with individual fleets to go over financials and business practices, he says. It maintains an information line at (866) 634-3735 and a website devoted to useful information for truck fleets: “It’s a fairly comprehensive way to let people know we’re working on a rule, what the rule is shaping up to look like, and we’ve adjusted rules considerably based on the feedback we get.”

Brasil acknowledges that meeting emissions standards forces many companies to change how they do business and spend money doing it. He says the agency tries to accommodate a company that needs more time to meet a deadline. Grants have been made available to help companies shoulder part of the cost of retrofits or new vehicles, although some of those resources have run out.

“We try to build in a number of things when we construct a rule that if there is a situation where something won’t work, we’re not making you replace the truck immediately,” Brasil says. “A key piece is finding the best balance between what’s technologically feasible and what is cost-effective and financially doable for businesses.”

Ramorino believes a better approach would have been to give trucking companies enough lead time to adjust their business model and turn over trucks more gradually. But he also says the industry dragged its feet in adapting to the regulations. “We fought it too long,” he says. “We fought the inevitable. It’s better to educate truckers, especially small truckers. [CARB’s] fallback is they have federal implementation standards to meet by 2015. They say we can’t give you more time.”

Blevins says that keeping pace with regulations is a time-consuming process. “There was a trucking company owner in here the other day who said he used to be in the trucking business — he still is, but now he says he’s in the business of regulating, understanding and complying with all of the regulations,” he says. “That’s how it is here in California.”

Here’s a look at various CARB rules and how different trucking companies are dealing with the regulations and the costs.

The Regs

Smoke test rules

Mountain Valley Express of Manteca, Calif., added rate increases in 2010 and this year is attaching a “clean air surcharge” to each invoice to help recoup the estimated $8 million cost of complying with CARB regulations, says President Scott Blevins.

Annual test applies to all California-based fleets with two or more diesel vehicles with a GVWR of more than 14,000 pounds. Diesel engine tests begin after the fourth model year and must be conducted with a SAE J1667 smoke test meter. Vehicles that fail to pass must be repaired and retested. Potential $500 fine.

Scott Blevins says his Mountain Valley fleet bought an opacity meter to do its own smoke tests, but he wonders if the annual testing is overkill, especially on 2010 engines. “Why do I have to smoke test a 2010 engine?” he asks.

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