October 13, 2015 12:00 PM, EDT

Estes Fined by EPA for Failing to Install Diesel Particulate Filters

John Sommers II for Transport Topics

Estes Express Lines has been fined $100,000 for failing to install particulate filters on 73 heavy-duty diesel trucks, a violation of the California Truck and Bus Regulation.

Estes also will spend $290,400 on projects to educate the out-of-state trucking industry on the regulation and for replacing old wood-burning devices in the San Joaquin Valley, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced.

Estes will pay $35,000 to the University of California Davis Extension to implement a state-approved training program for out-of-state trucking firms on compliance with the rule. Estes also will pay $255,400 to the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District’s Burn Cleaner Incentive Program that will be used to replace 80 or more wood-burning devices with cleaner ones.

Estes, based in Richmond, Virginia, ranks No. 15 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest for-hire carriers in the United States and Canada. EPA said that in February 2015 it issued a Notice of Violation to Estes after its investigation found that the company failed to equip its heavy-duty diesel vehicles with particulate filters and also to verify compliance with the Truck and Bus Regulation for its hired motor carriers.

In a statement released Oct. 9, Estes CEO Rob Estes said the company believed it was working within California’s emissions rules and has now replaced all tractors driven in California with new compliant models.

Of the 73 tractor units found in violation, 45 were domiciled in adjoining states and traveled into California for local deliveries, Estes explained. Total miles driven by the 73 noncompliant vehicles is less than 0.5% of Estes’ total miles driven in California.

“Estes Express Lines would never knowingly be out of compliance with any state or federal law, and we regret that the first-ever federal action taken to enforce the California truck and bus regulation is associated with the good name of our nearly 85-year-old company,” Estes said.

Estes said it has invested hundreds of millions of dollars to reduce its fleet’s carbon footprint and fuel consumption, replacing more than 3,500 tractors across the U.S. and equipping nearly 9,000 trailers with aerodynamic side skirts.

The California Truck and Bus Regulation was adopted into federal Clean Air Act plan requirements in 2012 and applies to privately owned diesel trucks and buses. Heavy-duty diesel trucks in California must meet 2010 engine emissions levels or use diesel particulate filters, which can reduce the emissions of diesel particulate into the atmosphere by 85% or more.

“Trucks represent one of the largest sources of air pollution in California, and the state has the worst air quality in the nation,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “EPA’s enforcement efforts are aimed at ensuring all truck fleets operating in California are in compliance with pollution laws.”

EPA says fine particle pollution can be emitted directly or formed secondarily in the atmosphere and can penetrate deep into the lungs and worsen conditions such as asthma and heart disease.