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June 26, 2007 8:00 AM, EDT

Soot-Filter Makers Say Units Will Be Ready for Reefers Ahead of Calif. Retrofit Deadline

By Andrea Fischer, Staff Reporter
This story appears in the June 25 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.
Manufacturers of diesel particulate filters for transport refrigeration units said the devices will be available to trucking companies operating in California in time for them to comply with a state retrofit regulation that takes effect next year.
“We’ve been working on this technology for years,” said Jim Chamberlain, general counsel for Thermo King, one of the nation’s two major manufacturers of transport refrigeration units. “We’ve spent a significant amount of time developing a diesel particulate filter that will work on a TRU, and now we have one that will meet California’s regulation.”
Similarly, Anthony D’Angelo, director of communications for Carrier Transicold, the nation’s other major TRU manufacturer, said, “We’re developing a technology to retrofit our units with particulate traps to bring TRUs into compliance with California regulations.”
Both Chamberlain and D’Angelo declined to comment on their companies’ market shares; D’Angelo estimated that the overall TRU market is “about 37,000 units.”
The California Air Resources Board set emission limits in 2004 for refrigeration units, which are powered by diesel internal combustion engines to refrigerate or heat perishable products on trucks, rail and intermodal containers.
CARB said although TRU engines are relatively small, ranging from 9 to 36 horsepower, the regulation was needed because “significant numbers of these engines congregate at distribution centers, truck stops and other facilities, resulting in the potential for health risks to those that live and work nearby.”
The regulation has a “phased-in compliance schedule,” beginning Dec. 31, 2008, said Rod Hill, CARB air pollution specialist. Truckers operating in California with refrigeration units manufactured in 2001 and earlier must show that they are using a CARB-approved technology or diesel particulate filter retrofit; the rule then will apply to a new TRU model each year, beginning in 2009.
Hill said CARB inspectors would audit distribution facilities and conduct roadside inspections at scales and border crossings to enforce the regulation. Fines for violations are up to $1,000.
Although CARB has not completed its verification of the technology and methods trucking companies may use to comply with the new regulation, “this is a technology-pushing program,” Hill said.
“We will make sure technology is [approved] to meet this regulation. We would not force truckers to comply with a regulation that was impossible to meet,” he said.
So far, CARB has approved the Thermo King diesel particulate filter for use “with 1985 through 1998 engine model year Isuzu D201 diesel engines” and a TRU particulate filter manufactured by Huss “for use with 2006 and older model year . . . engines that are not equipped with either diesel oxidation catalysts or exhaust gas recirculation systems.”
Huss representatives did not return calls from Transport Topics.
Although CARB has not yet approved Carrier’s TRU particulate filter, “we expect to verify our DPF by the end of 2007,” said Carrier’s D’Angelo.
Hill said the agency may certify a variety of other compliance methods in addition to diesel particulate filters for TRUs. One method CARB is currently studying to reduce TRU emissions is “electric standby power,” he said.
To use electric power to meet the regulation, a distribution center or truck terminal would have to show that a truck operator running a TRU could “plug in” to an electric power source at the facility, Hill said.
He added that “electric standby power” would help only warehouses and truck terminals to comply with CARB’s regulation. Trucks driven on California roads would still have to prove that they meet the TRU emission limits.
However, CARB also is considering the possibility of allowing truckers to reduce TRU emissions by fueling the units with “100% biodiesel,” Hill said.
“Biodiesel has not yet been verified as a way to meet this requirement, but we’re working on it,” said Hill. “If truckers use B100 exclusively to run their TRUs, and they can show a record that they are using B100 exclusively, that may be a fairly low-cost option” for the trucking industry.
CARB estimates that the cost of buying and installing a diesel particulate filter for a TRU currently “ranges between $4,000 and $5,400” per unit, Hill said.
But, he said, “the cost we’re seeing so far is based on the first few units we’ve verified. As more and more [units] get verified, competition will bring the price down.”
Both Thermo King’s Chamberlain and Carrier’s D’Angelo declined to speculate on how expensive their TRU particulate filters would be, but both agreed that CARB’s estimate was “in the ballpark.”
Nevertheless, California’s regulation “will drive up the cost of purchasing and operating refrigerated units in the state as well as keeping the older ones in service,” said Mike Tunnell, director of environmental research for American Trucking Associations. “If truckers want to operate a refrigerated trailer [in California], they will have to spend a significant amount of money” to meet CARB’s regulation.
A separate CARB regulation — requiring truckers to retrofit auxiliary power units with diesel particulate filters — is due to take effect Jan. 1, 2008.