A proposal by the staff of California’s Air Resources Board (CARB) would provide “lower-cost compliance options” for certain types of truck operations as the agency continues the rollout of its strict emission rules for “in-use heavy-duty diesel-fueled vehicles.”

The proposed changes are to be discussed in a public hearing on the agenda for the agency’s upcoming Board meeting, to be held this Thursday beginning at 9 am PDT at the California EPA’s Sacramento headquarters.

CARB has advised that during the hearing, its staff will present to the Board amendments that would “better ensure that the air-quality goals of the Truck and Bus Regulation are achieved by providing additional flexibility to fleets to enable compliance.”

California’s existing Truck and Bus Regulation required that, effective 01/01/12, fleets  “install starting PM [particulate-matter] filters for certain engine model years and to begin accelerating engine or vehicle replacement starting 01/01/15 for their heavier trucks… [and that] After 2014, fleets are required to phase in additional 2010 model year or newer engines such that by 2023 all engines operating in California and subject to the regulation will be model year 2010 or newer.”

The agency also noted that, under the current rule, there are “several compliance options for fleets to choose from, and some fleets may change compliance options from one year to the next.”

CARB said that in developing the amendments to be discussed this week, its staff focused on three objectives:

  • Protecting emission reductions by providing lower-cost compliance options to small fleets, low-mileage fleets and fleets that operate in rural areas with cleaner air
  • Creating new opportunities for fleets to access public incentive funds
  • Recognizing fleets that made early investments to comply

Aiming to “achieve these objectives and benefits,” the CARB staff said it will propose amendments to the Truck and Bus regulation that include:

  • A longer phase-in period for PM requirements for trucks operated exclusively in certain rural areas that have made substantial progress towards cleaner air while continuing to ensure compliance with diesel-risk reduction program goals
  • Additional time and a lower-cost pathway for all small fleet owners to achieve compliance with PM requirements, while re-opening opportunities for these fleet owners to apply for and receive public incentive funding
  • A compliance pathway for owners currently unable to qualify for a loan to finance compliance
  • Adjusted [compliance] schedules for low-use vehicles, trucks used in certain vocations and work trucks that travel fewer annual miles and are less competitive in obtaining incentive funding
  • Recognition of fleet owners that took action to comply by providing additional useable life for retrofit trucks and reducing near-term compliance obligations

The 91-pg report the staff has prepared on its proposed  amendments states that the effort came about because “Stakeholders expressed concern regarding the ability of some fleet owners to make the needed upgrades to comply” due to their “arguably” continuing to be “impacted by the recession.”

“The proposed amendments would continue to meet California’s air-quality obligations under the federal Clean Air Act and the goals of the [CARB] Diesel Risk Reduction plan,” CARB stated.

An American Trucking Assns. (ATA) spokesperson reached by FleetOwner for comment replied that the trucking lobby “doesn't really have anything to say” regarding the proposed changes.

Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the Diesel Technology Forum advocacy group, told FleetOwner that the amendments up for discussion are all about  “what Boards have to do – make difficult decisions that take into consideration many factors, such as competitive and fairness issues in the regulated community.

“We do know, however, this is not a technology issue or an options issue,” he continued. “For existing engines, there are well over 40 Level 3 verified and effective retrofit device solutions available for trucks.”

Schaeffer also pointed out that “the most recent registration data shows that more truckers are embracing the new generation of clean diesel technology than ever before.

“As of the end of 2013, 25% of all California-registered Class 3-8 trucks are 2007 and newer with about 10% 2010 and newer,” he stated.  “The new engines deliver not only near-zero emissions, but also fuel savings and other advantages.”

Schaeffer added that “everyone in the state has an investment in diesel technology– from the truckers and manufacturers to the communities that depend on the delivery of goods and services, and the Air Resources Board itself.”

UPDATE:

Chris Shimoda, policy director of the California Trucking Assn. (CTA), told FleetOwner  that the association “does not regard the proposed amendments as a big fleet vs. small fleet issue,” noting that “many smaller fleets have already invested in complying.

“CTA is supportive of some of the proposals, opposes a few and has a neutral stance on the others,” he continued. “Also, we recognize that CARB has had a difficult time [with this rule] striking a balance, given all the industry sub-segments” impacted by it.”

Shimoda said that CTA specifically supports these recommendations:

  • Giving fleets affected by the CARB recall of certain PM filters in 2012. While CARB is considering not requiring further action by these fleets until 2017, CTA wants that date extended to 2022
  • Issuing “early-action credits” to fleets that installed filters before 2014 by moving the date for further compliance out to 2023
  • Extend “early-retrofit credits” from 2016 to 2018

On the other hand, he advised that CTA opposes making these changes to the Truck and Bus rule:

  • Extending compliance for specialty-livestock operations “as most of the for-hire haulers in this segment do not require additional time to comply”
  • Extending compliance dates for fleets denied loans to achieve the necessary compliance as well as extending 2nd/3rd truck compliance

Shimoda added that CTA “recognizes that CARB has had a difficult time [with this rule] attempting to strike a fair balance, given all the industry sub-segments” impacted by it.