Are CARB’s Emission Requirements Forcing California Truckers Out of Business?

March 05, 2015 by Megan Headley

Even as another deadline requiring California trucks to install emission controls has passed, the California Construction Trucking Association (CCTA) is planning to take its fight against the state truck and bus regulation to the next level.

On March 3, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld an earlier dismissal of a suit filed by CCTA challenging the legality of a state ban of diesel-powered trucks not meeting post-manufacturing emissions requirements.

According to court documents, the appeal was dismissed because the court lacks jurisdiction over the matter. The dismissal is the latest in a number of stumbling blocks for CCTA involving procedural questions and poor timing. With this latest ruling, CCTA has announced plans to appeal the latest decision — potentially to the Supreme Court.

The case stems back to 2008, when the California Air Resources Board (CARB) first introduced its regulation requiring heavy-duty diesel trucks to be upgraded with pollution filters and lower-emission engines.

“Most diesel trucks and buses last 20 years or longer, and many have little to no emission controls,” explains Tony Brasil, chief of the Air Resource Board’s Heavy Duty Diesel Implementation Branch. “Reducing emissions from in-use trucks and buses is necessary to meet federally imposed clean air standards and to reduce the adverse health effects, including cancer, from truck and bus pollution.”

The regulation applies to all operating trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating over 14,000 pounds and, with a few exceptions, took effect on May 4, 2012.

CCTA filed its first suit in 2011, arguing that the CARB rule violates the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act enacted by Congress to prevent states from regulating the trucking industry. But at the real heart of CCTA’s case is a concern that small businesses will be forced out of business in order to bring trucks into compliance with the rule.

According to Joe Rajkovacz, director of governmental affairs and communications for CCTA, smaller trucking companies and owner-operators received more time to comply because of CCTA’s efforts in Sacramento. “However, as various compliance deadlines fall,” said Rajkovacz, “we do know many truck owners chose either retirement, moving out of state or, in the case of truck owners based out of state, they quit running California.”

Following those delays, January 1, 2015, marked the start of accelerated retrofits of particulate filters as part of a truck exhaust system, Brasil says. “The regulation provides a variety of flexibility options tailored to fleets operating low-use vehicles, fleets operating in selected vocations like agricultural and construction, and small fleets of three or fewer trucks,” he adds.

For drivers who must comply now, CCTA helps assist members with options and CARB registration. CARB, too, is working to ease the regulatory burden on drivers.

“We have continued to work with the trucking community to provide compliance assistance, and that is why financial assistance continues to be a high priority for us, especially for smaller fleets and businesses,” Brasil says.

Despite the fact that many California companies have made their choice on how to handle the post-manufacturing requirements, CCTA still feels it’s crucial that the CARB’s truck and bus rule is found unenforceable. In its news release on the latest ruling, CCTA writes that the litigation remains important because a ruling in its favor could create a precedent blocking the burdens of similar environmental regulations in other states.

“We will appeal the Ninth’s decision to the U.S. Supreme Court and hopefully the court will accept our appeal,” Rajkovacz says. “If the court turns us down, our case is over.”

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