Quieter on the Western front

By Randy Grider
Editor
rgrider@rrpub.com

If you are reading this from somewhere in California, you should detect a difference in the air.

Unless there was a last-minute change of heart by the California Air Resources Board from the time I wrote this column on Dec. 3, the truck parked next to you is probably not idling. If it is, the truck’s driver is at risk of a fine if his or her engine idles more than five minutes.

The new anti-idling regulations that were slated to go into effect Jan. 1 eliminated the 2005 exception for running an engine in large trucks for the purpose of resting in sleeper berths. The exception to the rule is for 2008-built (or later – obviously a moot point at this juncture) engines that are CARB-certified “Clean Idle.” Cummins announced last fall it planned to have a Clean Idle engine by the first of the year, and other engine makers also have similar power plants in the works.

This leaves truckers in the Golden State with limited options for heating and cooling the cab while parked. If you have a truck built before 2007, you can use auxiliary power units, both diesel and battery powered, shore power or fuel-fired heaters.

For engines built in 2007 or later that are not Clean-Idle certified, a battery-powered system or shore power is your only viable alternative for in-cab creature comforts. CARB-approved fuel-fired heaters or APUs with diesel particulate filters are also acceptable for new engines without Clean Idle, but these are nonexistent at press time.

Confused yet?

It could get more complicated with more emission regulations from California in the near future. Starting in September, the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach will ban any trucks built before 1989 and by 2012, any truck built before 2007.

You may ask how these bans, which mainly encompass local trucks operating at two ports, could affect you. CARB was scheduled to vote Dec. 6 on regulations modeled after the ones at these ports for ports statewide. CARB proposes eliminating all trucks made before 1994 that are not retrofit with engines to meet California emission standards and by 2013, all trucks made before 2007.

In addition, a CARB spokesperson said the board will take up proposed rulemaking, tentatively scheduled for this fall, aimed at heavy-duty highway trucks operating in California.

For many of us, being environmentally friendly used to mean not littering and turning off the lights and television when you left the room.

We live in a different world today. “Being Green” is vogue from a public relations standpoint, but it also makes sense. We cannot continue to contribute to pollution at the same rates as have in the past. For the trucker it also makes sense to cut down or eliminate all unnecessary idling. With fuel expected to stay at the $3 level or above for most of this year, idling an engine is idling away money – idling burns almost a gallon per hour.

Currently there are more than 30 states and municipalities across the country with some kind of anti-idling laws on the books. In some of these jurisdictions, California’s emission standards serve as a model, although usually not as comprehensive, for their own respective regulations.

With the increasing pressure to reduce idling and fuel costs, truckers must be realistic about the future. Quickly, and not so quietly, the areas where drivers can park and rest with the hum of their engines as background noise are narrowing.

According to a special report by Commercial Carrier Journal, there are some financing options for owner-operators who can’t absorb the full cost of alternative idling devices. They include The SmartWay Transport Partnership (www.epa.gov/smartway), a collaboration between the transportation industry and the EPA; Cascade Sierra Solutions (www.cascadesierrasolutions.org), aimed primarily at West Coast operations; and CARB’s Carl Moyer Program (www.arb.ca.gov/msprog/moyer/moyer.htm).

The price of being green is not cheap, but looking at the future, neither are the alternatives.

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