Owner-operators speak passionately for and against CARB extensions in hearing

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CARB mapUPDATE: CARB voted April 25 to approve the amendments it heard testimony on the day prior. Click here to read the story on the approved changes. 

California’s Air Resources Board this week officially unveiled some proposed changes to its Truck & Bus Rule emissions regulations, which required truck owners with pre-2007 model trucks to either update their equipment or install particulate matter filters by Jan. 1.

Proposed amendments to delay some emissions regulations deadlines and allow alternate compliance options for small fleet owners were presented to the California Air Resources Board April 24 to consider and adopt.

The Board, after hearing roughly five hours of testimony from both industry stakeholders and the public at large, tabled the vote on adoption and plans to resume its meeting today, April 25, to consider the amendments.

Though trucking industry commenters came down on both sides of the amendments — some for and some against — a large majority spoke out against the amendments, calling them unfair for those who have already taken the necessary measures to comply, which in some of the commenters’ cases took millions of dollars.

Under consideration by CARB — and up for vote April 25 — are several changes to the state’s Truck and Bus Rule that would add certain parts of the state to so-called NOx exempt regions and delay some compliance dates for truck owners with three or fewer trucks and truck owners who were denied loans to install particulate matter filters or purchase newer trucks.

There’s also an amendment that would expand the state’s use of the low-use exemptions, allowing those who run 5,000 or fewer miles total annually, whether in California or otherwise, to operate without a PM filter until 2020.

The amendment to expand NOx exempt regions would allow owners and operators in rural areas of the state where air quality meets federal air quality standards to operate until Jan. 1, 2015, without a PM filter or upgraded equipment.

The loan-denial extensions would allow truck owners with up to three trucks who were denied financing for a PM filter an overall compliance extension to 2018, as long as the truck owner committed to buying a 2010 or later model truck and engine by Jan. 1, 2018. Click here to read prior Overdrive coverage on the proposed extensions. 

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Commenter Shelly Archer says she and her husband co-own Archer Trucking, a 64-truck fleet in California, and she spoke vehemently against the passage of the amendments, saying it gives her competition — those who opted not to comply with the state’s rules — an unfair advantage.

“I’m getting slapped in the face because I complied,” she said. “My husband and I stepped up and are over $3 million in debt [to comply], while competitors who have not complied are getting the golden ticket.”

The owner-operators that work with her fleet are in a similar predicament, she said. While about half have complied, the other half did not, essentially punishing those who did comply with the regulation.

“I have neighbors — one has a brand new truck or a $15,000 filter on an old truck, and one is just driving his old truck. They’re on the same jobs making the same money, except one has a $2,300 a month payment and one doesn’t. That’s not fair. [No one] is sticking up for owner-operators or fleets who did comply.”

However, several owner-operators showed up to voice strong support for the amendments, telling the Board essentially that willingness to comply wasn’t the problem, but that their operation simply couldn’t afford to.

Patricia Barrett, a single-truck owner-operator out of the San Joaquin Valley, gave a tearful address to the Board, pushing them to adopt the amendments. If they didn’t, she said, she would be forced to move from the state, leaving her children and grandchildren, all of whom live near her.

“I’m still trying to qualify for the money to add my filter,” she said. “And after many attempts through financial institutions I have no funding. If I am forced to put on a filter by June 30, I will have to move outside of California, which would mean a mental, emotional, physical and financial burden,” she said, then broke into tears and added, “thinking of grandchildren.”

Likewise, a single-truck owner-operator pushing the Board to adopt the amendments said he was denied a loan and wouldn’t be able to operate legally without the extension. “All I ask is that you give the extension for those that actually need it,” he said.

Ron Faulkner, owner of the 50-truck Faulker Trucking, however, said an underlying issue with compliant trucks and fleets vs. non-compliant ones is a lag in rates.

California’s for-hire industry needs to “be on a level playing field” so that it can boost rates to pay for equipment upgrades and PM filters. Faulkner says his fleet has spent $1.5 million and will spend another $750,000 in the coming years to maintain compliance.

“We need all these people to get CARB compliant like we are to keep rates up where we need them to be,” he said. “We refinanced the whole company to be able to even try to survive this ruling. With rates where they’re at now, we can’t afford this.”

Another single-truck owner-operator out of Oakdale echoed Faulkner’s concerns about rates, saying if CARB adopted the amendments it would “be totally lopsided for everybody.”

“I’m making a big investment to stay in business,” he said, citing a new truck he’s ordered. A rate increase is the only way to afford the rule, he added.

Other commenters said the Board should consider either no-interest financing and tax credits for those who complied on time with the rule.

See coverage of the Board’s decision later today on Overdrive. The meetings resume at 10:30 PDT — you can access a stream of the meeting at that time via this link.

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