Golden Rules

Max Kvidera | December 01, 2011

Truck and bus rule

This is the regulation that will have the initial biggest financial impact on fleets operating in the state. Compliance schedules depend on truck model year, with pre-1996-engine trucks having the briefest compliance windows. Basically, trucks with 1996-2006 engines will be compliant until 2015 if retrofit with filters. From 2015-2023 most trucks would be scheduled to meet 2010 emissions standards. To ease the burden, CARB is allowing carriers to register a compliance schedule that phases in a percentage of their fleets over a few years. CARB estimates cost at $2 billion.

RoadStar Trucking is taking advantage of the fleet phase-in program to upgrade its fleet over four years. The 30-daycab distribution carrier is replacing five of its older trucks and retrofitting four others. By acting early, RoadStar gets from CARB a two-for-one credit for each retrofit, which translates into eight compliant trucks for this year.

In the past, the carrier followed a 10-year replacement cycle for its trucks, but the recession extended the schedule out to 12 to 13 years, fleet President Bob Ramorino says. “Without environmental regulations we would probably have looked at late-model used trucks,” he says. “That’s not an option because we have to meet the regulations.”

RoadStar Trucking President Bob Ramorino says meeting CARB regulations will make it harder for small trucking companies to survive. His Hayward, Calif., company may have to give up low-margin customers or court clients in other markets.

Ramorino says his company will be compliant through 2012, but he’s unsure of the future beyond next year. He’s talking with shippers about rate hikes, but that may be hard to stick. He says he “may have to walk from some business” or go farther afield to Southern California from his Bay Area base.

“This may not stay a mom and pop industry,” Ramorino says. “It’s going to be very difficult for the mom and pops to compete.”

Mountain Valley Express is under the gun to upgrade its 180-truck fleet by 2014. Mountain Valley’s Scott Blevins says the company is retrofitting 15 daycabs at about $14,000 each to remove the muffler and replace with a diesel particulate filter. The Manteca-based carrier is also receiving state Proposition 1B funding of $50,000 toward the purchase of each new truck that operates only in California.

By 2014, Blevins estimates the cost to his company will be as much as $8 million. How will he get it back? The company instituted rate increases of 3.5 percent in 2010 and 5.5 percent this year. Also, in July the carrier began adding a $1.95 “clean air surcharge” to each invoice. He’s hearing it from customers, but he says he had no choice. “I need help on fuel because of the high cost of diesel and I need help on the clean air issue because of the high cost of retrofitting,” he says.

Bettendorf Trucking, which runs 154 trucks and maintains terminals in California and Oregon, rolled the dice that CARB rules eventually could “be a game-ender” if it didn’t act, says Bob Phipps, maintenance supervisor. It solicited state grants to help pay for retrofits and new trucks. It also bought a filter cleaning system for diesel particulate filters and an air compressor to run it. “The bottom line is we are CARB-compliant for the next four years,” he says.

Greenhouse gas reduction

Container haulers such as those working the Port of Oakland face a CARB compliance schedule more accelerated than that imposed on over-the-road carriers in California.

A component of the state’s AB 32 law that mandates reducing pollutants to 1990 levels by 2020. Also known as the SmartWay rule, it requires aerodynamic devices, such as side skirts and fairings, on 53-foot and longer box trailers and SmartWay-approved low-rolling-resistance tires on trailers and tractors. There are exemptions for less-than-53-foot trailers and short-haul tractors and trailers operating within a 100-mile radius of a base terminal. All 2011 and newer tractors and dry van trailers already must be SmartWay approved or equipped with aerodynamic retrofits. On Jan. 1, 2013, SmartWay-approved tires will be required on tractors, while 2010 and older trailers must carry SmartWay certification or be equipped with fuel-saving aerodynamic technology; CARB estimates aggregate costs at $10 billion.

Mountain Valley Express will be outfitting its 53-foot trailers with side skirts and low-rolling-resistance tires, although Scott Blevins says the attachments won’t provide an economic benefit because the short-haul carrier doesn’t have high-enough average speeds. CARB gives the carrier a 150-mile exemption from its terminals but almost all of its hauls are longer. Blevins estimates a total $8 million investment through 2014.

Five-minute idling rule

State restricts idling to five minutes and the state regulation is one of more than 40 state and local ordinances targeting idling, according to the California Trucking Association. Rule pertains to sleeper trucks during rest periods as well. Fines range from $300 to $1,000 daily. Tickets have been issued, ­truckers say.

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