The rocky coast

| April 02, 2008

Navigating the Golden State’s new emissions laws isn’t easy.

California’s diesel truck emissions laws are not only the nation’s strictest, but the most confusing.

This past winter, the state’s latest round of regulations was the main topic of calls to the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, says Joe Rajkovacz, the association’s regulatory affairs specialist. “Truckers are angry,” he says.

Truckers entering California must navigate laws affecting idling, new trucks, auxiliary power units and reefers. Rules differ between ports and rail yards and from port to port.
“Everything you do in California is a problem,” says owner-operator Marjorie Struckle of Jordanville, N.Y. “So we try to go no farther West than New Mexico.”

The problem with California’s approach is typified by its new emissions standards for reefer units, says Glen Kedzie, environmental counsel at the American Trucking Associations. Starting Dec. 31, 2008, transportation refrigeration units and TRU generator sets dating from ’01 and older must meet in-use standards varying by horsepower range. The rule uses a phased-in approach over 15 years. Yet designating certain reefers only for California runs is impractical for most trucking companies, Kedzie says.

Another fear is that other states will “glom onto” California’s example, in Rajkovacz’ words, as they have in other regulatory matters. Other states already are looking to California as an anti-emissions model, for example, Kedzie says.

Many aspects of the TRU regs can’t be enforced until the California Air Resources Board is granted a waiver from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Until then, CARB won’t enforce in-use emissions standards and accompanying enforcement provisions, says Karen Caesar, CARB spokeswoman. The board will, however, enforce the reporting requirements for facilities, she says.

For decades, such waivers to California routinely were granted by EPA, but the agency in December caused a furor in regulatory circles by denying California’s request to require a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles by 2016. EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson argued that the energy bill just signed into law by President Bush dealt adequately with that topic. In response, California and some states that were planning to emulate California’s rule have sued EPA.

Truckers serving California ports must deal with their own set of new regulations. In December, CARB approved a plan to require older trucks serving ports and rail yards to be replaced or retrofitted. This regulation will require pre-’94 drayage truck engines to be retired or replaced with ’94 and newer engines by the end of 2009. By that deadline, trucks with 1994-2003 engines will need to be either replaced or retrofitted.

The regulation’s second phase will require drayage trucks to meet ’07 emissions standards by the end of 2013.

Meanwhile, the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have been implementing their own Clean Trucks Program. Long Beach, which had been working in lockstep with Los Angeles, in February killed a provision that truckers must be employees of licensed motor carriers, not owner-operators; it also stipulated that at least half of its program-financed trucks must operate on alternative fuels. In March, Los Angeles officials voted to retain the employee requirement for truckers serving the port.

The plan is for companies serving both ports to sign a concessionaire agreement, which has fees and a multitude of requirements. This agreement is a backdoor effort to regulate interstate trucking, Rajkovacz says. “Essentially, you have to purchase operating authority to serve the port.”

In comments filed March 3 with the Federal Maritime Association, which regulates ports, ATA argues the concessionaire agreement is pre-empted by federal law and unnecessary to meet the clean air goals.

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