Dollars & Sense

Kevin Rutherford

The California challenge

Owner-operator Chris Thomas

California’s aggressive regulatory climate provoked this sentiment, which has circulated online in different forms. Chris Thomas, leased to Minnesota-based Autumn Transport, made stickers of this version he planned to offer up to anyone who wanted one. He’s also set up a page on eBay to sell them here.

If your current truck is not California Air Resources Board-compliant – meaning (among other things) that you do not have a diesel particulate filter – devise a strategy now if you plan to operate in California.

With few exceptions, most Class 8 trucks operating in California will need to have some sort of approved DPF installed by Jan. 1, 2014, to meet CARB regulations. (Find a full list of upgrade-requirement schedules by engine model year in this story.)

If you derive only a small percentage of your revenue from California, consider no longer operating there. This may sound drastic, but weigh the costs and risks associated with having a CARB-compliant truck.

Engine-related problems are frustrating to get repaired and many times cause a loss of fuel economy, on top of the costs for repair and downtime. Some of the most common calls I receive on my radio show are complaints about loss of fuel mileage due to an emissions-related issue that shops can’t fix.

If your truck is model year 1996-2006, you potentially can add a DPF to achieve compliance; CARB-certified filters cost $15,000 to $20,000. On top of that, you will see a loss of fuel economy – as much as a half-mile per gallon – due to the increased back-pressure created by the DPF; that will add $3,000 to $5,000 in annual fuel costs. Periodic DPF cleaning will cost several hundred dollars every year or two. Most DPF installations require hookups to both the electronic control module and fuel supply, which can lead to even higher maintenance costs and downtime.

More technology, more problems
With every new round of emissions technology, emissions-related engine problems get more common and the engines more expensive. Here are the latest results from a J.D. Power survey of owners of heavy-duty engines that meet 2010 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations.The study finds that 46 percent of owners of trucks that are one model-year old report an engine-related problem, up from 42 percent in 2011. The most commonly reported problems involve electronic control module calibration (23 percent of owners), exhaust gas recirculation valve (20 percent) and electronic engine sensors (16 percent). In addition, the average number of engine- and fuel-related problems has increased to 81 problems per 100 vehicles from 71 in 2011.

You would need to generate $30,000 of revenue from California loads just to break even in the first year, and at least $5,000 of revenue from California to break even every year after that. Would you want to spend that much money and take that much risk just to break even?

Your other option would be to upgrade to a 2007-09 or newer model truck, which would require no further emissions-equipment investment until 2023. In addition to your upfront trade cost, expect higher maintenance costs and downtime on newer trucks. In my experience, it’s not hard to operate a pre-2004 truck for 6-8 cents per mile in maintenance. I’m finding that the 2007 and newer trucks are costing 12-14 cpm in maintenance.

Those who need to operate in California might have some other options. If you go there only to satisfy a good customer, is it possible to set up a rental arrangement for a CARB-complaint truck? Leased operators should ask their carrier about plans for California. I have talked with carriers that plan to have some CARB-compliant trucks and allow other owner-operators to stay out.

We have little data on the effects of a DPF on a pre-EGR engine. We have some data available on the costs of operating a 2007 or newer truck, but we don’t have a lot of long-term numbers as far as engine life and rebuild cost. If you can avoid rushing out and spending thousands of dollars to become compliant, you will gain time and the likely advantage of learning more about options and outcomes. In the meantime, evaluate your own situation, and do what’s best.

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  • Bullwinkle

    On the bright side, if you have a CARB compliant truck, you should be getting a higher return on your investment. Either way, it would appear most of the BLUE STATES are moving towards Cali-Fornication.

  • Kurt Keilhofer

    It is worth noting that NONE of the engine or truck manufacturers have come out with a DPF for there pre ’07 trucks. I’m sure some of that is their desire for folks to buy new. But with the failure rates of companies that were building and selling them, and have gone out of business, I think that there are many other issues, that the driver would end up having more problems with.

  • Tom

    I don’t know why anyone would operate, or live, for that matter, in California. Give them what they want, get all the trucks out of the state and see what happens.

  • Zachary Bell

    Not Illinois… They have such a bad budget crisis that Cali-Fornication is not an option. They are already having a hard time keeping the business they already have- State Farm Insurance has already bought land in Georgia, Texas and Arizona to build call centers there, Caterpillar has multiple plants in Texas and had to evacuate their HQ to their Texas facilities and remote locations during recent flooding in Peoria, IL, International Truck and Engine is planning to move it’s plants that haven’t been outsourced to Mexico… And then there are Boeing and the retailer Sears (doing business as Sears and K-Mart), who can move their HQ at any time, for any reason. If Illinois becomes like California, we are SCREWED… and yes, we are a BLUE state (thanks to the city of Chicago, who is out of touch with reality).

  • GladtobleavingCA

    I wonder how much of the DPF install fee goes into the pockets of the Sacramento crooks that run the state???

  • ilovdieselsmoke

    Georgia,S.Carolina truckers beware the Teamsters union has set their sites on organizing the Port of Savannah,GA and they will use the same cookie cutter clean truck plan that was devised to run the owner/operator trucker out of the CA ports. They are already talking about green trucks and legislating air quality BS regulations wanting to convince lawmakers & the state port authority that it’s their civic duty to eliminate older trucks operating in southeast SC/GA. This includes every independent trucker not just the ones who haul containerized cargo. By eliminating the pesky owner/operator trucker or making truck ownership so expensive that he/she goes completely out of business opens the door for easier unionizing efforts. They’ll be left with mostly all company employee driven trucks which are fair game for union organizers. Yes, driving the O/O out of business takes care of independent status under the law by which the union cannot legally unionize lease drivers!

  • Jim

    I used to run in California quite a bit, but I have only been there twice in the last three years. My ’06 Columbia is not CARB compliant and I have no plans to make it compliant. I make a decent living without California so they can just go to Hell.

  • Jim

    I thought the Teamsters were irrelevant in trucking already.

  • Todd Modderman

    Let their produce rot in the fields, when it can’t get hauled out, maybe then someone will go in and run CARB out of business.

  • It Won’t Be Very Long

    I, personally, could care less about CA or GA Ports. You can also add VA, MD, and NJ. If NC enacts the proposed $68.00 Toll for trucks on I-95, you can add them to the list as well.

    The real problem is that trucks will not stand up for themselves.

    If we were to all stand up and say no to hauling to or through their state, then they would soon get the picture.

    They really do need us more than we need them. And when they have a shortage of goods, they will realize their err.

    The states we have listed above also means that the states in between them also do not get service from us.

    There are many other places that do understand their need for us, and we make it convenient for us to be allowed to serve them.

    Case in point, Warner Robbins, GA wanted no truck parking. However, they soon saw where the issue could lead to and reversed their decision.

    So let them do as they so please, and so will we.

    They ain’t running this trucking company out of business!!!

  • Big Dave

    California is ” Hell Bent ” on running business out of the state. you’d think they’d wake the hell up.

  • Patrick Montgomery

    I agree Tom, if all trucks stopped running in California, the effect might wake up some of those in Sacremento.

  • fat and lazy

    I live and operate in The peoples republic. You guys should keep coming out here. They have only 100 enforcement people to take care of this debacle. The chances of getting caught are like playing the lottery. Everyone here is still running there junk, I have upgraded and am suffering the ills of making big payments. I am compliant, reluctantly. The rates still suck here.

  • Lewis Parsons

    I stoped hauling in kalifornia yrs ago That is one messed up country.I will not even visit .All you drivers need to hold together and stop running there.

  • Charles Champagne

    Message to the Communist State of California stick your products in your DPF! I’ve been driving for over 25 years and as far as I’m concerned they can go straight to hades. I would rather throw my CDL in the trash than comply with one more phony baloney California law. It isn’t bad enough they have a 55Mile an hour speed limit, but they have the most ridiculous emission laws ever dreamt up! Good luck getting those fresh veggies out of your hell hole…

  • S.E.

    If you get the grant here in CA for a new truck, you still are locked out of the ports here for 3 years.

  • James

    I’m with you,Tom;
    Maybe if they had to ship everything through the Panama Canal or fly it out there via Air Freight a little at a time,they’d finally realize what they’re doing. (But I doubt it-it IS California,after all,and things like Logic and Common Sense are punishable attributes there.)

  • al

    if we do like the Farm Industry did, we may have no EPA problems. They all flooded their state Representative,
    their Congress person, assemblyman, state senator, mayor, ect. with mass quantities of emails saying there are against epa laws. if that Representative agreed with the EPA, then they will loose there vote! That’s what i did! What we all need to do, & we may have a chance to not go out of business. & not spend 10k upto 20k & loose over .5 mpg thanks to the BULLSHIT MUFFLER DPF Crap we have to put on. So if you! MR. O/O read this? Start now & write you’re state political assholes that believe’s in the DPF bull shit. & tell him/her that you wont vote them if they are for DPF!

  • James

    Kinda reminds me of the O is Hell Bent on destroying the US. It HAS to be intentional-NOBODY could ACCIDENTALLY do ALL the wrong things for this Country to survive and prosper again.

  • James

    Another option might be charging TEN times MORE across the board to deliver to,or pick up from California,or any other States that are playing this game. Stopping service to these States would only cause them to have their Reps legislate more illegal laws to make drivers serve the States,but continuing to “serve” them,while making it incredibly expensive to get their product moved,would let them see what a “financial crunch” REALLY feels like,while enabling the drivers who are willing to go there to make decent money for their added expense and hassles.

  • James

    They’re not the only ones. Nevada shows to be a Blue State on the charts and maps,but if you take Reno and “Lost Wages” out of play the State is Fire Engine Red. But all us Conservatives get to be condemned for all the stupid crap Reno and L.V. supports.
    Any of us from anywhere but the Cali-kiss-up Cities have been consistently Cali-fornicated for years.

  • Taino Transport

    This is the reason I moved out of Calif. in ’07’, To tell u the truth there are some many reason, I just don’t have time.

  • USMC 69-75

    where is California?

  • USMC 69-75

    Ca is giving grants for new trucks??? WOW! They so broke, but yet can give grants for new trucks???? Must be nice being in bed with Barry……”no thanks”

  • USMC 69-75

    Yeah! It’s the junk hurting the entire industry…..hauling cheap freight, so they can’t fix their trucks! They’d rather steal your fuel and spare tires and anything else they can lay their hands on, than haul a good load!!!!

  • Duane Osborne


    When are you guys going to stop bending over for every little things and stand up for yourselves? You are one of the largest work forces in the US and most certainly the one with the most power. You guys could change things over night if you would just stand together. I mean. I thought it would be the fuel prices, No. Then the HOS, Nope. Then I thought for sure that the HOS plus the OBR would be the final straw that would unite everyone but no.

    You guys are paid slave wages, kicked and slapped around by shippers, receivers and state and federal governments and yet you do nothing. When are you going to start standing up for yourselves and unite!!! It would not take a week shutdown either. All you would need to do is shut down for just one day, just a one day nation wide strike and that would be enough to force sweeping changes over night.

    If all of us were to shut down then the powers would be would know that we are serious and with the threat of a much longer strike. The powers that be would have no choice but to start making changes that benefited us rather than benefiting everyone BUT us!!


  • Jim

    I used to know, but I am working hard on forgetting them.

  • Bernie

    I got out of trucking 2 years ago and have not looked back since. I just got so tired of everyone complaining about everything but not willing to try and do anything about it.

    The old joke applies here.. ” How many truck drivers does it take to change a burned out light bulb? answer! ” NONE” Everyone just wants to sit in the dark and complain”…

    So wake the hell up and stop putting up with it all..

    If you think you cannot afford to shut down. Just think can you afford to run for nothing? and continue to be under the thumb of the communist elites that run this country. IE!!!!
    The ever oppressive ( DOT)……SO WAKE UP AND DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT…..

  • john

    add it to the list of states not travelled !! They will learn in a hurry when their veggies and citrus rot in the field !!

  • G & G

    This is absolutely rediculouse. We are a small fleet and our trucks are all 2005, it will be a stupid idea to get my trucks in complaint with their DPF. So we will be just another one of the many carrier that will not ever enter CA, oh well their lost. Will see how they get all their goods into their state and get all their products out.

  • mousekiller

    In 04 I had my truck engine overhauled. In the process it was mandated to install the EPA and CARB emission programing in the ECM. My truck is an 97 Freightliner Century.

    I had no choice in the decision.
    Immediately I had a 2 mile per gallon reduction in fuel mileage. Also a severe loss of power.
    That was an additional cost of near $15,000 a year increase in fuel costs.. The programming automatically down grades the HP from 500 to a 410 . Not good. Since my ECM started to die a few months ago I purchased a new one. Upped the HP to 600 and NO pollution crap in the ECM. Gained my fuel mileage back plus some, less shifting and I am happy. I may go to CA until the end of the year if the loads pay better than good. Then I don’t care as there are many other places to go to earn the buck.

  • mousekiller

    I gave up 13 years in the union. Took a withdrawal. Couldn’t stand the triple standards and the BS at the meetings. Talk about a dog and pony show. they do not want to even try to get in my face and intimidate me. Just wont fly. Then again I do not go to ports anymore.

  • mousekiller

    The Daley machine is alive and well.

  • mousekiller

    Al… I agree with you. I see one serious reason for drivers to NOT contact their elected representatives. The cannot not communicate with out profanity. They seem to have to cuss every third word and no official will read past the 2nd cuss word. We do need to contact legislators. Let them know how certain legislation will effect us. When ever possible give a solution . I have seen a lot of things happen in the 45 years I have been driving a truck. Most is not good.Our Equipment has improved by leaps and bounds over the years but drivers have not. It seems that drivers today more fit the image of dumpster diver.

  • Thomas Duncan

    I find it amazing that our govt. is not supposed to be able to demand or mandate that we purchase products(health care was ruled a tax.)but yet what have they done?i can’t even stand the term “COMPLIANT” nazi’s used the word a lot I am sure!

  • terrymdayjr

    California has a way of running business and revenue off. Everything from Hollywood filming on down the line. You would think that a state in such desperate need of income would beg business to come into their state as opposed to running everyone off.

  • Marc Dudgeon

    Why is my 2001 pete with a 6nz cat Compliant this year and your 06 is not ?

  • RevelationsRevealed

    I just renewed my IRP today… minus California

  • Melody

    **READ THIS**
    I mean no disrespect to Mr. Rutherford but I feel it’s important to point out that CA ARB Compliance is based on the ENGINE MODEL YEAR, not the model year of the truck body itself. The Engine Family Number is required to determine the ENGINE MY. The engine family name is on the emission control label (ECL) attached to the engine. Here is a link to help you find the right information.

    2011, bought a 2007 Pete (like new & less than 180K mi) and Jan 2012, bought a 2007 KW.

    Wasn’t until I was attempting to report our veh. I learned of Engine MY and Engine Family Name.

    07 Pete has 2005 model engine.
    Took me a month (had to wait for replacement engine sticker) to find out that the KW also has a 2005 engine.

    If I’d only known then what I know now……

  • Melody

    Wish I had a nickel for everytime I’ve heard that!

  • Zachary Bell

    And the Rahm Emmanuel machine and the Pat Quinn Regime and the (now-in-jail) Rod Blagojevich Regime… and let’s not forget the Obama machine…

    They’re all typical Chicago democrats who are truly out of touch with reality.

  • Russ

    I can’t believe this… There have been two Supreme Court decisions, ( The California medical marijuana case and the farmer growing wheat in his back yard case) both opinions clearly stating that in all cases of interstate commerce federal law supersedes state law. Any truck operating across state lines in engaged in interstate commerce… That means that if a truck engaged in interstate commerce meets federal emission standards then California has no jurisdiction in the matter. I would think that a first year law student could put a stop to this insanity. Someone please explain why governments and government agencies are exempt from the law when they choose to be…

  • Stacey Moritz-Erb

    I have wrote ,called,emailed.They don’t give a shit. CARB is laughing all the way to the bank.

  • Stacey Moritz-Erb

    You can get a grant….BUt there is only certain dealers who you can go to. Which have jacked the price of a truck up 30,000. It is the most F**** up thing i have ever seen.

  • USMC 69-75

    Wish it were true John,
    But there are way to many scabs out there that will haul the crap for nothing, and go anywhere…..and most of the time, get away with it! Seems they don’t pick on the one that can’t speak “English” in commercial trucks????

  • Swamp Thang

    Hey Everyone, shutdown during the DOT crackdown and kill two birds with one stone…

  • Nehemiah Washington III

    Detroit has a DPF/SCR system in a one box format that can be retrofitted to pre ’07 Freightliners, Western Stars, and Sterlings

  • ilovdieselsmoke

    This will effect more than the ports. they would like to get rid of the owner-operator period. every owner/op inside or outside the port without limits! once they open this box with the green wackos inside it’s hell to pay to fight this coalition of tree huggers who think truckers are spewing a dark cloud of doom across America in the form of diesel soot. the teamsters want to use these slimy little green trolls to put us out of business by legislating trucking to the point of being so outrageously expensive that an individual driver can’t afford to become an independent trucker ever again!

  • ilovdieselsmoke

    no they are fighting to make a come back & are using a war chest funded by a monstrous trade union group called change-to-win. we would like them to become change-has-lost. ooida seems to be asleep at the wheel but every now & then jim johnston awkes from his nap and says they are observing this or write a small miniscule article for their membership. for over three years they claimed it didn’t effect their membership but at least they now know it does but still they remain quiet on the side lines. maybe they are scared of the teamsters. mike parkhurst the owner/founder many years ago of overdrive magazine would have been devoting every issue to this attack on the right to ownership that’s threatening the ranks of the independent trucker across America… strives to maintain an open forum for reader opinions. Click here to read our comment policy.