California Trucking Companies Must Comply With Clean Air Rules

June 10, 2016 by Tony Dreibus

Trucking companies will have to comply with a rule passed in 2008 that says all of their trucks must meet clean-air standards in California after the state’s superior court nullified amendments giving truckers more time to convert their vehicles.

A mandate was put in place in 2008 by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) that said trucks operating in California must comply with clean air rules or be taken off the road. Many companies and owner-operators, begrudgingly, complied with the ruling at their own expense. In 2014, however, amendments to the rule were adopted that gave trucking companies flexibility in adopting the mandate passed in 2008.

The suit asking for the amendments to be negated was filed by the California Trucking Association (CTA), a Sacramento-based industry group, and trucking firm John R. Lawson Rack and Oil of Fresno. The amendments, the CTA said, put members who’d spent millions of dollars on compliance at an economic disadvantage to those who hadn’t yet complied.

“There are major economic impacts to those who complied and invested to operate legally in the state,” said Shawn Yadon, the chief executive of CTA. “Then to say were going to amend this thing and give non-compliant folks a competitive advantage because they had not invested the money” puts CTA members at a disadvantage.

CTA members in 2008 voted to comply, albeit resentfully, after the CARB rules were put in place,  which put the group’s members, at an organizational level, economically behind trucking companies that decided to not spend the money to become compliant, Yadon said.

CARB said in a press release the court’s ruling will hurt smaller companies with three trucks or fewer, agricultural producers and fleets in rural areas. Richard Corey, CARB’s chief executive, said the initial ruling to “clean up dirty trucks” improved air quality in the state, but the board recognized in 2014 the difficulties the 2008 rule had on small firms, which is why the amendments were implemented.

“In 2014, we recognized the extreme economic pressures experienced by smaller trucking fleets and independent owners as they sought to comply by upgrading or purchasing new equipment,” Corey said. “We responded by amending the regulation to make it more flexible for the little guys to comply.  This court decision negates those amendments and deals a profound blow the smaller fleets, small farmers and independent owners.”

CARB’s portrayal of this as a large company vs. small company battle is unfair as trucking firms of all sizes were affected by both the 2008 and 2014 rulings, Yadon said.

Companies of all sizes spent money to comply with the 2008 ruling, and regardless of how many trucks they operate or how often they’re used, they were put at an economic disadvantage when the 2014 amendments were rolled out, he said.

“The small carrier guys who’d spent money faced tremendous financial hardships,” Yadon said. “Go back to the April 2014 meeting (when the amendments were passed) and some of the most impassioned testimony came from small carriers who’d complied, saying `do not amend these rules and give the economic advantage to those who are not complying.’”

CARB said it plans to “immediately” file an appeal that will leave the amendments in place as the case winds its way through the legal process.

“We strongly disagree with the court, and will file an appeal in all possible haste,” said Jack Kitowski, the head of CARB’s Mobile Source Division, which oversaw the development and is in charge of putting the regulation into effect on a daily basis. “We don’t want to see small fleets and farmers hurt by this decision.”

Yadon said the CTA is taking a wait-and-see approach with regard to CARB’s appeal of the ruling.

“We are going to be watching closely the next step by CARB and if they appeal we’ll be ready for that,” he said.

Related: Trucking Industry Lawsuit Could Roll Back California Environmental Regulation

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