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November 8, 2010 7:45 AM, EST

CARB Says Changes to Truck Emissions Rules Could Save Trucking More Than $3 Billion

By Eric Miller, Staff Reporter

This story appears in the Nov. 8 print edition of Transport Topics.

A series of proposed amendments to California’s emissions-reduction regulations for heavy trucks would save the trucking industry more than $3 billion, in part by delaying some compliance requirements, according to a new report by the state’s environmental regulatory staff.

The report was posted on the California Air Resources Board’s website on Oct. 29 — the same day the proposed amended regulations were made public. CARB is scheduled to consider adoption of the amendments in mid-December, following a 45-day public comment period.

“Overall, the estimated compliance costs of the truck and bus regulation over the next five years would be reduced by 50%, and would be reduced by about 60% over the life of the regulation,” the staff report said.

Originally, CARB estimated that compliance with the entire regulation would cost the industry about $5.5 billion overall. If the amendments are approved, the price tag will drop to $2.2 billion.

Matthew Schrap, director of environmental affairs for the California Trucking Association, said the revised regulations are “substantially different,” providing some relief for carriers.

“But whether or not that relief is going to be sufficient to help the industry recover remains to be seen,” Schrap told Transport Topics. “We’re still looking at a pretty major fleet turnover leading up into the 2020 time frame.”

CARB’s estimates have declined because the amendments will delay requirements for engine replacement, allowing truckers to install less expensive retrofits in the near term, Schrap said.

“But you still have to do something to a truck twice,” Schrap said. “You get it, you retrofit it and it lasts for a while, and then you more than likely will have to get rid of it and get a newer vehicle or one that can be retrofitted with a device that currently doesn’t even exist.”

“This is going to greatly reduce the trucking industry’s impact on the emissions inventory,” Schrap said. “But until we have a truck that doesn’t use diesel or any type of combustible fuel, we’re going to continue to see more and more regulations.”

The delays won’t hurt California’s plan to reduce pollution, largely because the recession has led to a 25% reduction in overall trucking activity in California, causing a decline in diesel-emissions levels.

But CARB officials said the heavy truck, greenhouse gas and drayage regulations, while being scaled back, still are needed to meet the state’s “many air-quality challenges, whether they be meeting federal air-quality standards, reducing premature mortality, addressing localized risk or reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

The goal is that, by 2023, California will have “the cleanest, most efficient diesel fleet in the world,” the report said.

The amendments call for delaying the requirement that trucks with 1998-2006 model-year engines have particulate-matter filters installed between 2012 and 2014. Those trucks would be able to operate for another eight years, instead of four, before having to be replaced by new trucks that meet the 2010 model-year emissions standard.

Beginning in 2015, model-year engines 1997 and older would be replaced when they are 20 years old.

Overall, by 2023 all trucks operating in California would need to have 2010 model year or newer engines or equivalent emissions.

The proposed amendments also would give fleets a new option to begin the phase-in of trailer retrofits by extending the reporting period another year, and they would extend the deadline for using low rolling-resistance tires for existing trucks and trailers.

Other changes would give truckers more flexibility in installing aerodynamic technologies.

The amendments also would establish another large-fleet compliance schedule allowing owners of these trailers to phase-in compliance from 2011 through 2015.

CARB defines “large fleet” as “any fleet operating 21 or more trailers in California.”

CARB’s drayage truck regulation would eliminate the 2014 requirement to modernize all trucks visiting ports or intermodal rail yards to 2007 model-year engines or newer, and it would instead align this requirement with the truck and bus regulation. Under the amendments, drayage trucks with PM filters would not need to comply until 2020, rather than 2014.