The federal Clean Water Act regulates discharges of pollutants into U.S. waters. In California the authority to regulate storm water runoff is handled by the State Water Resources Control Board and regional water quality control boards.
Facilities such as carrier terminals and truckstops are required to comply with the state regulations, which include monitoring runoff when it rains, filing a collection and testing plan, and documenting the results.
Scott Blevins of Mountain Valley Express says the company tests water that runs off at its different locations. The company is required to buy a permit for each of its locations. “We’ve proven we’re not a polluter,” Blevins says. “When does the testing requirement go away?”
Blevins says he has a vice president of maintenance and environmental affairs who is dedicated to matters such as storm water runoff monitoring. “If you don’t have someone on top of that every day and they show up for a surprise inspection, they’ll nail you every which way they can, and the fines are very substantial.”
Mike Evans figures he’s a casualty of complying with CARB regulations. A former driver and owner of Yolo Trucking in Northern California, Evans filed for bankruptcy in June and is considering his next move.
Evans has been in container hauling since 1990. In two decades since, business has often been booming, he says. His business grew for 18 straight years before the recession hit in 2007, but then took off again in 2008. At the peak he controlled 45 container-hauling trucks, including three of his own. “Everything started snowballing downhill,” he says.
Evans was caught in a financial bind in 2010 when he faced a CARB regulation requiring drayage truck operators to upgrade their vehicles. He had the choice of buying equipment to retrofit 2007 and older trucks to make them compliant until 2014 or trucks with 2007 engines that would be good until 2020. Since he knew he couldn’t get bank financing to pay for a retrofit that would be compliant for just two years, he bought 10 2008 trucks for $1 million and took on monthly payments of $15,000.
When other owner-operators complained they didn’t have the money to upgrade, CARB reconsidered and gave operators another year to raise money for equipment to comply with the emissions rules. Evans and other company owners who had gone into hock to meet the regulation were now competing with operators who weren’t saddled with debt.
“The economy and these regulations came together in a perfect storm,” Evans says. “I had the trucks, but I couldn’t raise my rates to pay for them, and our customers were applying pressure to reduce rates. I ran as long as I could. I ran out of money a year later. I had to give the trucks back.”