Just earlier this month, the Superior Court of Fresno ruled that the California Air Resources Board (CARB) had to negate the amendments made to their 2008 California Statewide Truck and Bus Rule.
This means that CARB will have to comply with their original rules, and trucks that haven’t upgraded their heavy-duty diesel trucks or bought new ones will need to comply if they want to stay on the road. CARB has plans to file an appeal.
California Statewide Truck and Bus Rule
In December of 2008, CARB approved the strictest emissions regulations in the nation. These have been phased in over the past 8 years, with the goal to reduce emissions from existing diesel vehicles in California.
It is especially critical for California to reduce their emissions because about one-third of Californians live in places with pollution that is greater than federal standards. Having these heavy-duty diesel vehicles will benefit the health of millions of people.
The rule would require all trucks with engines made before 2007 to install a particulate matter (PM) filter by 2014, or upgrade to an emissions-compliant truck. These PM filters can cost as much as $20,000 and smaller trucking companies especially had trouble complying because of the economic burden.
Changes to the Truck and Bus Rule
In April 2014, the California Air Resources Board saw the trouble that smaller carriers were having and implemented changes to the rule. The changes gave owner-operators and smaller fleets some flexibility with emissions deadlines and some other compliance options.
Under the amendments, if carriers were denied an upgrade loan, they were able to run their truck without a filter, as long as they promised to buy a new truck or install a PM filter by December 2016. Operators would be required to show proof that they had been denied such a loan or couldn’t afford to purchase the filter or new truck.
Fleets with three or fewer would have an extra year for their second truck to comply, and two years for their third trucks. There were other delays and exemptions in the rule changes.
Diesel Rule Loopholes
Before the rule changes, companies were spending millions of dollars to get their fleet in compliance. On top of that, some of those same companies lost money selling their older trucks at a low price. Smaller carriers that complied were under tremendous financial hardship and had to struggle to upgrade.
When the truck and bus rule changes were announced, larger companies who had chosen not to follow the regulations were able to cheat to take advantage of the new loophole. They could divide their company up by putting their trucks in family member names to look like a small operation so that they would not have to follow the emissions regulations.
Opposing the Rule Changes
Before the amendments were implemented, 85% of the owner-operators of diesel truck and buses had already complied with the new rules. These operators were justifiably upset that they had chosen to update their diesel vehicles only to find out CARB was going to give others a pass.
In 2014, the California Trucking Association (CTA) and John Lawson, owner of Fresno trucking company, John R. Lawson Rack and Oil, sued the Air Resources Board. They asked for the rule changes to be denied, saying that the amendment created an unfair competition between trucking companies that spent millions of dollars in order to upgrade fleets and those companies that chose not to follow the new rules.
They also claimed that trucker who did comply with the rules were undercut competitively by companies that chose not to follow the ruling. During the decision meeting, smaller carriers pleaded with CARB asking them not to change the rules and give an economic advantage to those who chose not observe the emission rules.
Clearing the Air: The Court’s Decision
Earlier this month, Judge Mark Snauffer agreed on the side of the CTA and Lawson, stating that the Air Resources Board violated the California Environmental Quality Act by issuing the truck and bus rule changes. The Court ruled that CARB must comply with the rules they originally put in place to reduce diesel emissions.
This is an important ruling for all businesses operating in California because it supports the requirement that regulatory agencies must evaluate the economic impact of their actions.” –Shawn Yandon, CEO of California Trucking Association
The CTA and Lawson were happy with the ruling. Shawn Yandon, CEO of the CTA, stated felt that it was an important ruling for all business of California. Lawson said, “I didn’t do this for me. I did it for everyone in the state who has to breathe filthy air.” He says that everyone knows that “Fresno and the entire Valley has dirty, filthy, nasty air.”
The California Air Resources Board stated they would be filing an appeal immediately, saying that they do not want to see farmers and small carriers hurt by the courts decision. It seems that in California, owner-operators are going to have to put their money where their mouth is so that all of California’s residents can breathe a little easier.