Left-coast gamble: CARB’s enforcement potential, narrow compliance alternatives

| September 30, 2013

Part 1 of this feature detailed the difficult yearend decision coming for owner-operators of 1996-2006 model year trucks. 

Click through the image to use our interactive graphic to determine your options for getting CARB-compliant under the Truck and Bus rule in 2014.

Click through the image to use our interactive graphic to determine your options for getting CARB-compliant under the Truck and Bus rule in 2014.

In addition to the trucks he owns and his leased owner-operators, Lightning Logistics co-owner Joe Hammerslough dispatches independents with their own authority, some of whom routinely work the 400-mile Phoenix-Los Angeles corridor with a goal of decent miles and weekend home time. “Those are lower-grossing freight lanes,” he says, “because it’s only 400 miles.” If you can get $2 a mile, “$800 a day is not a bad living,” he adds, but not enough to sustain the cost of a new or late-model truck. A lot of those operators tell him that when they see regular enforcement from California Air Resources Board of its Statewide Truck and Bus Rule, coming online for small fleets with three or fewer CARB-registered trucks at the end of the year, they’ll just stop running their trucks.

But Hammerslough could be on the hook, too, for actions taken by CARB inspectors against such operators. It’s not just the equipment owner who’s responsible for compliance, a recent Ironman Parts webinar spelled out. Citations levied by CARB against independent or leased owner-operators also can be levied against the entity that sent them, whether broker, dispatching service or leasing motor carrier.

OUTSIDE ALTERNATIVES | At the end of the year, there won’t be much wiggle room when it comes to continuing to haul in California for those with noncompliant engines. All the same, here are two very narrow options.

Run a pre-1996 engine. Through last year, Galt, Calif.-based independent owner-operator Martin Jez (pictured, below) was operating a 1988 Peterbilt cabover – he’s since boosted his fuel mileage with a 2000 model Freightliner that is in the crosshairs of the expiring small fleet/owner-operator delay in compliance requirements under CARB’s Truck and Bus Rule. Funnily enough, though he sold the 1988, if he’d still been operating it today, he’d be losing some fuel money but would be able to delay a tough decision through the end of next year rather than this one. Pre-1994 engines require no upgrade through the end of 2014, but must be retired from OTR use to remain compliant in California then; the deadline for 1994-95 engines is farther out at the end of 2015.

Jez says he’s unsure what he’ll do come the end of the year – he and his wife had contemplated a move to the Midwest to get out from under CARB rules, but their home and children from a prior marriage are in California. Jez says he’ll likely have to go out of state in search of a post-2007 used truck compliant in California – at least one he’s interested in buying.

Independent owner-operator Martin Jez

Independent owner-operator Martin Jez


Three-day pass. A three-day pass is available at a rate of one per carrier, says Joe Rajkovacz of the California Construction Trucking Association. The owner-operator or fleet “can use it once a year,” he adds. “Save that for when the produce rates get jacked up in late May or early June … as long as you’re compliant with the reefer and GHG rules – all these things intersect.” Owner-operators and fleets can download the three-day pass application form via this link.

Comments on Overdrive Online suggest CARB just doesn’t have the manpower or the will to enforce the engine requirements. “They have only 100 enforcement people to take care of this debacle,” an anonymous commenter noted under a June story on the yearend upgrade requirements, urging operators to just keep running in the state. “The chances of getting caught are like playing the lottery. Everyone here is still running their junk.”

CARB Public Information Officer Karen Caesar says the agency has “approximately 150 staff in its enforcement program, all of whom can technically enforce the diesel regulations,” as can other CARB staff. Additionally, “selected [local/regional] air districts and ports with which we have [Memoranda of Understanding] can also enforce our diesel emissions regulations.”

According to the numbers, California began enforcement under a new Statewide Truck and Bus program in 2012, opening a total 400 investigations with just $20,325 collected in various penalties. In the field operations-based portion of that program, however, 2,802 inspections were completed that year, with 298 violation notices issued to the tune of $171,050 collected in noncompliance penalties, or about $600 per noncompliant case.

In 2012, the inspection program’s first year, it was the second-most lucrative program overall measured per inspection, behind only enforcement of reefer unit compliance rules. Keep in mind, too, these statistics come from a year in which only about 30 percent of the total number of trucks on the highway, says Rajkovacz, fell under one or another of the DPF retrofit or upgrade requirements – non-small fleet equipment of model years 1996-2004.

Next year, that will include all the small-fleet trucks plus 2005-06 trucks. Given the large pre-buy of 2006 model-year engines, many of which ended up in 2007 model-year trucks, Rajkovacz estimates somewhere between 70 and 90 percent of the diesel vehicle population will be exposed to the regulation.

See Part 1 in the “Left-coast gamble” series for RigDig Business Intelligence’s estimates of the size of the California-running truck population.

Keeping that $600/violation average figure in mind, the possibilities are green indeed when it comes to generating revenue for the state. “Take a scale like Banning,” says Hammerslough. “The number of trucks that cross that scale every day is enormous. One CARB inspector out there could tell CHP (California Highway Patrol) he wanted to see every truck that was 2007 or older – if you don’t have a compliant engine, then, you’d be in some serious trouble.”

“I’ll just take California off my map.” – Owner-operator Bill Taylor, pictured with his wife, Robyn, and their 2007 Western Star

“I’ll just take California off my map.” – Owner-operator Bill Taylor, pictured with his wife, Robyn, and their 2007 Western Star

Caesar says penalties levied for individual violations can range from $300 to $10,000. CARB also takes into account the history of the violating business. If a company is a repeat offender, having flouted CARB rules in the past, fines can be toward the higher end. 

Conditions the board must take into account in enforcement actions are spelled out in California legislation S.B. 1402, posted on the agency’s website, and they likewise include a provision for consideration of the financial burden the penalty would place upon the defendant. Resolution procedures include an “opportunity to discuss,” so if you are unlucky enough to be nabbed, you might negotiate a lower penalty.

Owner-operator Bill Taylor, who had looked into the retrofit market to upgrade his 2007 Western Star powered by a 2006 engine, ultimately decided not to change his hardware. Though his fleet, FedEx Ground, had backed off of its attempts to get him to upgrade, he ultimately opted for the operational latitude to choose just where he goes. Today, he and his wife, Robyn, also a driving partner, have leased the Western Star to Landstar, where self-dispatch is the norm. “I’ll just take California off my map,” he says.

Click through the image to use our interactive graphic to determine your options for getting CARB-compliant under the Truck and Bus rule in 2014.

Click through the image to use our interactive graphic to determine your options for getting CARB-compliant under the Truck and Bus rule in 2014.

Part 3: the final installment in the “Left-coast gamble” series, detailing CARB’s other equipment rules, specifying requirements for 53-ft. van/reefer trailers, tires, reefer units, APUs and other pieces of your operation.

  • Scott Haskin

    California can starve, go naked, wipe there butt with leaves .

  • Steve Pieri

    I really don’t care if I never go to California again.Besides look at all the Registration money I will save when my Plates come due. In my world it is a win/win. So long to California you will not be Missed.


    this could all go away if we let this produce rot in the coolers in california this carb issue now where is OOIDA ATA OWNER OPS WHY CANT WE PULL THIS OFF 28 YEARS AND THEY TREAT US LIKE S… WHEN IS GONNA STOP OUIT WRITEING ON RESTROOMS WALLS AND LETS DO THIS ONE THING

  • Dave Nichols

    I think that the best option is to boycott califonia period. just let them starve or go broke not selling their goods or produce.

  • David McGaugh

    Never been there, never will there is alot of shit smashed into that shit hole state but there really is nothing there for trucks anyway. There is nothing there to be truvked that can’t be bought in other states.

  • Mike Smith

    I believe most trucks have an engine that is one year older than the year of the truck when they are manufactured. Correct me if I’m wrong.

    This would mean that you would have to buy a 2011 truck in order to get a 2010 engine.

    If you put a 2010 engine in a 2000 truck how do you prove that the engine is a 2010? I guess you would have to carry the engines bill of sale, correct?

    These are questions Overdrive might help with.

  • BRD

    I have had my name on the door since 1985 and have always had my own authority and come December 31st of this year myself and my authority are going to go else where…No one state government is going to tell me my truck that was once compliant isn’t anymore…Good luck Calif…NOT

  • Daniel Kupke

    There is a tag on most engines that tell it’s date of manufacture ?? Several years ago Cal was telling us we had to make sure the tag was there or else we would be fined !!! I knew all the time they were gearing up for this !! Just like the others say stay out of Cal n let that produce rot !! They will change their tunes when the local produce farmers hit the court-house !!!

  • John Scott

    I think its clear that California has never addressed or even considered the implications of its EPA actions. A lot of freight will never sustain a new truck or timely purchases of new equipment. I cannot afford it and I think I am not alone. I have a 2006 truck and frankly have not seen California in years and have no plans to go there. What I believe will happen is people in California will pay more in goods because rates will go up to get truckers to haul into their state. Its a lose- lose for everyone.

  • John Scott

    I replace my truck when I can afford it. Not when a state decides I am not compliant for their regulations.

  • Mind Games

    Again this garbage is a result of the rich fleet owners who send lobbyist to buy a favor or two. Vote all these B••••’s out of office and yes we can spread the message on the sides of our trucks and the backs of our trailers.
    The messages has to cut across both party lines because they are both on the take!
    Vote third party because two ain’t gonna work anymore.
    Don’t believe the hype from your party if you do then don’t complain when you bend over again and don’t play dumb when you know damn well that they both are sticking it to you either!
    Tea party is on the take too so don’t believe that them either!
    Green party libertarians are the tickets we need and a 50-50 mix is about what we need to get our country back on track and put the Democratic and Republicans behind bars where they belong.

  • Mind Games

    If you guys think they have not prepared for what’s to come you are out of your minds! They have large corporate owners who bought their politician and or they will declare it a state of emergency and get money from the federal government to buy trucks and run them and WE will pay for it!

  • Mike Smith

    It would be expected that they would look at engine tags if they require certain year engines. With this, the government becomes even more intrusive, infringing on our right to privacy by demanding we open the hood to check the engine.

    As for food rotting, CA already has a fix for that. They have millions of Mexicans. In Fontana, CA all the trucks are now driven by Mexicans, & Mexicans who can hardly speak English if at all. The truck business names are now almost all Mexican too.

  • Mike Smith

    If CA was so concerned about carbon emissions what they need to do is STOP the Mexican Invasion. There are tens of millions of Mexicans now in CA, that are driving and causing other carbon emissions, and methane also.

  • Mike Smith

    I just spoke to a CARB rep and he verified what I mentioned above, saying, ‘typically a truck will have an engine from the previous year example a 2007 truck will have a 2006 engine making the 2007 truck unusable in CA. Furthermore, if you get a 2007 engine it will be in a 2008 truck. To complicate things some 2007 ENGINES in 2008 trucks DO NOT QUALIFY TO GO TO CA unless they have the PM filter included on the truck/engine.

    As I understand it the engines eligible to run in CA did not become dependable until 2010. (It is still unclear to me if the reference to dependable 2010 means the yr of the truck or the year of the engine). In other words the pre-2010 engine or truck, such as the case maybe, where the problem engines that many of us have been hearing about. This makes purchasing a cheaper older truck that can run in CA a questionable move.

  • Daniel Kupke

    These mexicans have Cal legal trucks ?? Or are they exempted some-how ?? Now if I understand things the older trucks (pre 1994 like my 359) still have 1 year left ??

    I still say stay out of Cal n let the shit rot !!!

  • Daniel Kupke

    Who gonna run n drive them ?? Those fat cats gonna leave the desk behind n live like truck drivers ?? Is there that many legal drivers out there out of work ??

  • john f

    won’t hurt my feelings if they all starve

  • john f

    yeah, good luck with that !

  • guest

    Nope…cops cheerfully LOOK THE OTHER WAY for mexican trucks…they ask No Questions about the illegal aliens coming across their SCALES…all is Bueno…..on your way Mr.Mexican CHEAP LABOR…these cops are Paid to ALLOW these illegals and their Old Junk trucks to haul freight and this will Continue!!! The American truck will get pulled in a get the Citation…..the mexican is always Free To Go……evene though they are totally illegal in every catagory….Politics are dominated by mexicans…they wont have to COMPLY with a Damn Thing.

  • Adrian Alexander

    They don’t need to look at engine tags, all they have to do is look for the components ( filters, etc. ) to be there.

  • Adrian Alexander

    Or may be they will get an injunction for produce for the months they need to.

  • Mind Games

    Oh its entirely possible. It may be a few at a time but over time they will be gone and we can have our country back after the trials and executions.

  • califcowgirl

    You are right. And CA has a NEW law…nothing to do with trucking, but if an illegal is pulled over at a DUI checkpoint and found to be intoxicated, their vehicle CANNOT be impounded because it would cause them a financial hardship to get it back. Unbelievable!
    I live here…born and raised. I hate it…but we are stuck. You can’t go just anywhere and run a water truck :(

  • illegal guy

    you are such an ignorant, just to let you know “illegals” can not get a commercial licenses. and i’m sure you are not a truck driver, you are just an ignorant red neck

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