More flexibility may be added to ‘truck rule’
By Christine Souza
Some relief may be coming, after local government representatives, truckers and truck-dependent businesses expressed concerns about meeting state-imposed deadlines for replacing or installing emissions-control equipment on diesel trucks.
The state Air Resources Board has unveiled proposed amendments to a regulation that requires diesel truck and bus owners to take steps to reduce engine emissions. The ARB will consider the proposed changes at its April 24 board hearing in Sacramento, and will accept comments until April 21.
California Farm Bureau Federation Environmental Affairs Director Cynthia Cory said the amendments went further in providing additional regulatory flexibility than originally proposed last fall. She said owners of agricultural trucks that qualify for an identifying AG sticker will now have until Jan. 31, 2015, to register with ARB, and that mileage limits have been streamlined and increased slightly.
"There are several other new options that could also appeal to growers if the AG mileage limits are too restrictive," Cory said.
The proposed changes include:
- A longer phase-in period for diesel particulate matter, or PM, requirements for trucks that operate exclusively in certain rural areas with cleaner air;
- Additional time and a lower-cost route for owners of small fleets to meet PM compliance requirements, while reopening opportunities for these fleet owners to apply for and receive public incentive funding;
- A compliance route for owners currently unable to qualify for a loan to finance required upgrades;
- Adjusted schedules for low-use vehicles and certain work trucks;
- Recognition of fleet owners who took action to comply by providing additional "useable life" for retrofit trucks and reducing near-term compliance requirements.
Cory said many truck owners can benefit and should take a close look if they missed earlier retrofit deadlines, as there are several new options that could allow them to become compliant.
"The current regulation allows an AG-registered truck to drive 10,000 miles annually before having to replace it with a 2010 engine by 2023," Cory said. "In addition, there are three other, higher mileage limits based on engine model years that allow the AG trucks to be driven until 2017, and then require them to be upgraded or replaced."
The proposed change eliminates the 10,000 miles per year limit and replaces it with higher limits based on model year until Jan. 1, 2017 (see table).
For example, those with an AG stickered/registered 1998 diesel truck that has been driven 10,000 miles or less annually would be able to drive up to 20,000 miles per year under the proposal. Those who have not registered can now do so, but would need to provide annual mileage since 2011 to ARB that does not exceed the limit for that engine model year.
In 2017, all three mileage categories would collapse into a 15,000-mile annual limit that applies until 2020. As of Jan. 1, 2020, the 15,000-mile limit would be replaced by a 10,000-mile limit that would expire in 2023. The goal is for older trucks to be replaced with 2010 truck engines by 2023, while allowing the older trucks to be driven limited miles until a 2010 replacement could be purchased.
For those operating in NOx-exempt areas, the ARB proposes to expand the number of regions and extend the compliance schedule to be phased in from Jan. 1, 2015, to Jan. 1, 2020. To take advantage of this provision, Cory said, owners must retrofit their trucks with a PM filter or trap. In that case, the engine would not have to be replaced. Owners of one truck would need a PM filter by 2017, two-truck owners by 2015 and 2019, and three-truck owners by 2015, 2017 and 2019.
For small fleets of one to three trucks traveling outside of NOx-exempt areas, the deadline to upgrade the first truck would remain at Jan. 1, 2014. But ARB has proposed to extend the compliance schedule for the second truck to Jan. 1, 2016, and for the third truck to Jan. 1, 2018.
The ARB has proposed to add cattle livestock trucks to the specialty agricultural truck category, which means there would be no compliance requirements until Jan. 1, 2023.
Justin Oldfield, California Cattlemen's Association vice president of government relations, welcomed the proposal.
"This is certainly huge. The (existing) rule has certainly depleted our ability to move livestock in the state. A lot of individual and state operators have said, 'We're done hauling; we can't afford to go out and buy a new vehicle or comply,'" Oldfield said. "We will look to support appropriate changes to the rule that will also benefit those who have already made the investment to upgrade equipment."
ARB Chair Mary Nichols said if the ARB approves the changes, fleet owners who have already made investments to upgrade their vehicles would be provided with benefits, including additional time beyond what is currently allowed to keep trucks they have retrofitted.
The ARB also proposes to defer compliance with the PM filter requirements for up to three vehicles for any owner unable to get financing to comply. Those who are able to take advantage of this would have to comply by upgrading to a 2010 or newer engine by Jan. 1, 2018.
More information about the proposed changes can be found on the CFBF website at www.cfbf.com; go to the Issues and Regulations page and look under Air Quality for the link to Truck and Bus Regulation.
(Christine Souza is an assistant editor of Ag Alert. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.