Recent actions by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to delay full implementation of its requirement for the installation of diesel particulate filters (DPFs) on most trucks operating in the state do not address serious concerns by drivers about the safety and effectiveness of the devices, according to the Alliance for California Business (ACB).
By January 1, 2014, most trucks operating in the state will be required to have a DPF. At its October 24, 2013 board meeting, ACB and others in the trucking industry told CARB that thousands of trucks have yet to comply, and won’t be able to meet the deadline. The truck owners told CARB that the DPF is a technically flawed device that causes constant repair problems and resulting delays in shipments. It places truck drivers and the general public at risk of fires and other truck-related accidents. The DPF is designed to reduce diesel particulate matter, but it leaves a giant carbon footprint on the state when it malfunctions or damages trucks– which is often. Small businesses and agriculture are most immediately impacted, but the effect of the DPF requirement will be felt throughout the state, as businesses struggle to absorb the financial impact by raising prices or reducing service to rural areas.
None of this is news to the trucking industry, but for the first time it appeared that someone on the Board had finally listened. On November 14, 2013, CARB announced that it would give some truck owners more time to comply with the Truck and Bus Regulation. Trucking owners or companies must show “good faith compliance” by doing one of the following by January 1, 2014: (1) enter into an agreement to buy and install a DPF; (2) sign a purchase contract and order a replacement truck equipped with a DPF; or (3) show that they were approved or denied a loan or other financing for a retrofit DPF or replacement truck equipped with a DPF.
Alternatively, a truck owner could register the truck as one that stays exclusively within a designated low NOx county or drives less than 5,000 miles per year. In addition, CARB advises that it is going to provide further information to stakeholders and hold meetings to review these issues.
“CARB’s olive branch to California businesses comes late in the day and won’t help most of our members. The DPF technology is unsafe and unreliable. For those who have installed these filter devices, they must endure the cost of constant mechanical failures and the threat of engine fires. The rest of us are waiting for the other shoe to drop, knowing that the CARB enforcement police are, as we speak, pulling over trucks and issuing large fines for noncompliance”, said ACB Chairman of the Board Jim Paiva.
ACB board member Rick Cinquini adds, “It just amazes me that CARB now says that it wants to start exploring the problems with a regulation they are already enforcing. Shouldn’t they have done that before requiring thousands of truckers to buy these dangerous and defective DPF devices?” Board member Mike Manna points out that “the area or mileage limitations just won’t work for companies that need to use trucks for different purposes on different days. That’s just not how the trucking business works.”
ACB president Bud Caldwell finds CARB’s dishonesty about the number of trucks affected alarming: “It’s not the small number predicted by CARB. CARB’s statistics on the number of trucks that still need to be upgraded appear to be numbers pulled out of a hat, and also fail to consider the trucks coming into the state.” Mr. Caldwell also asks CARB to explain this: “why is it that CARB funding to purchase the DPF or new trucks is limited or not available at all to truck owners whose trucks do not frequent certain corridors (the ones that are most impacted by pollution in the state). At the same time, CARB requires these same trucks (the ones that do not frequent this corridor) to buy the DPF or replace their trucks on the CARB schedule. How is that fair?”
Mr. Caldwell added, “The Alliance for California Business brought its lawsuit to require CARB to put an end to a program that by design will require truck owners fit their trucks with a dangerous and mechanically defective DPF device, and by doing so causes more harm to the environment than it cures. CARB’s newest advisory tells us that CARB is finally thinking about these issues, but these weak and incomplete compliance deferments or carve-outs temporarily help only a handful of affected California truckers. They do not relieve truck owners of the fears and terrible economic uncertainty created by these regulations.”
Mr. Cinquini summed it up: “It was CARB’s responsibility to know and disclose the real facts about the DPF before requiring any truck owner to install that device. It is now CARB’s duty to agree to an unconditional moratorium on the DPF devices until it is clear that they are safe, affordable, reliable, and do no harm to California’s environment and economy.”