The rocky coast

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.

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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.

Truckers with California plates will have some financial help in meeting CARB mandates. The board recently approved $400 million to retrofit and replace diesel trucks serving ports and rail yards and another $360 million to be divided among other diesel trucks and the electrification of parking spaces at truck stops and terminals.

CARB will allocate $25 million to diesel emissions reduction projects for the South Coast, Central Valley, San Francisco and San Diego air districts, mostly for truck retrofits and replacements. Also, CARB’s Carl Moyer Grant Program provides incentive grants for clean engines and equipment.

Other incentives can be found through the nonprofit Cascade Sierra Solutions. The program aims to reduce emissions from trucks driven more than 40,000 miles annually in California, regardless of the trucks’ base states. Qualified participants can receive a grant or loan for equipment related to emissions reduction or saving fuel.

CSS operates in the states of California, Oregon and Washington with a primary focus on the I-5 corridor. More information is available at

Financial aid for truckers serving the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports is available through the Coalition for Responsible Transportation, formed in response to the port plan by importers and other parties. The coalition will provide financial assistance to owner-operators purchasing low-emissions vehicles. Qualifying are trucks that run on liquefied natural gas, trucks from the 2007 and newer model years and retrofits of trucks from the 2000 model year or newer.

The latest set of emissions hurdles
California laws to reduce truck-related pollution, already in effect, include:

  • A limit on diesel idling of five minutes.
  • A ban on registration, including renewals or transfers, of trucks in violation of air-pollution laws.
  • A mandate that new heavy-duty trucks come equipped with tamper-resistant switches that shut down the engine after five minutes of idling.
  • A mandate that truck engines must have “Engine Emission Certification” labels or risk a fine by roadside inspectors.

Violators of the new anti-idling law face a stiffer minimum penalty of $300, triple the previous sum. The maximum penalty is $1,000 per day and criminal charges. Exceptions exist, but queuing isn’t one of them if a residential area is less than 100 feet away.

Diesel-fueled APUs for use on ’07 trucks and newer had not been approved at press time, but are allowed on pre-2007 trucks, said the California Air Resources Board. When CARB does certify that a newer APU meets the new, restrictive specs, a compliant truck must feature a certification label on the hood.

One CARB-approved idling alternative is Kenworth Clean Power, available as a factory-installed option only on Kenworth’s T660 with 72-in. AeroCab sleeper. CARB’s website,, has more information on idle-reduction technologies for sleeper berth trucks.

A trucker without the engine certification sticker could be fined $300 on the spot, with another $500 penalty if “proof of repair” isn’t provided within 45 days. Most engines will have the labels unless they are old or have been rebuilt. If you are missing the labels, consult your dealership.

The only exceptions to the shutoff-switch requirement in trucks newer than the 2007 model year are engines that meet an idling standard of 30 grams or less of nitrogen oxides per hour. So far, this means only Cummins 50-state ’08 Clean Idle Certified On-Highway Engines, which Cummins customers can specify for new trucks or install as an upgrade to ’07 Cummins engines.

“Drivers can also use a gasoline-powered generator, or go to a motel,” says Karen Caesar of CARB.