Court strikes down Calif.’s emissions regulations compliance options for owner-operators

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Updated Jun 19, 2016

Read Our 2013 Feature Series On The California Air Resources Boards Truck And Bus Rule Via This Link

A California Superior Court ruled last week to strike down several 2014-made amendments to the state’s strict emissions rules. The amendments meant to give compliance flexibility to owner-operators and other small fleet owners who may have trouble affording equipment upgrades or add-ons to bring their trucks into compliance.

The Superior Court of Fresno directed the California Air Resources Board on June 9 to void the amendments to its Truck & Bus Rule. CARB says the amendments will remain in effect, however, while it appeals the court ruling. The court decision did not affect the Truck & Bus Rule itself.

Opponents of the amendments, including the suit’s plaintiff California Trucking Association, argue the delayed compliance schedule afforded by the amendments effectively punishes owner-operators and fleets who made the effort and spent the money required to comply with the California Air Resources Board’s. The amendments put those who did comply on time with the rule at a competitive disadvantage in the marketplace, the plaintiffs argued.

The judge overseeing the case, Superior Court Judge Mark Snauffer, agreed with the plaintiffs.

CARB, however, argues the compliance alternatives offered by the amendments “provide badly needed flexibility to smaller fleets…”

CARB’s strictest-in-the-nation emissions regulations were phased in over a nearly decade-long period, eventually requiring all trucks pre-2007 year-model to either upgrade to a newer, emissions-compliant truck or to install particulate matter filters by Jan. 1, 2014.

However, CARB voted April 25, 2014, to amend some of the deadlines associated with its regulations. Under the amendments, fleets with three or fewer trucks who were denied a loan to purchase a retrofit diesel particulate filter — the costs of which can be upwards of $20,000 — could run their truck as-is if they committed to buying a new, emissions-compliant truck by the end of 2016 or if they installed a particulate filter by the end of 2016. To take advantage of this amendment and others, operators would have to file an application with the state and prove they couldn’t get a loan or otherwise could not afford to purchase a new truck or a particulate matter filter.

The amendments also gave carriers with three or fewer trucks extra time to bring their second and third trucks into compliance. Such carriers’ second trucks had to become compliant by January of this year (a delay from the previous January 2015 deadline), and third trucks had until Jan. 1, 2018, to become compliant.

Other delays offered by the amendments included an expansion of the number of NOx-exempt counties, expanded credits for early compliance and an expansion of low-use exemptions. See more on the amendments at previous Overdrive reporting at this link.

The compliance alternatives provided by the amendments posed their own set of risks, however. Click here to read more from prior Overdrive coverage.