CARB eyes more flexible retrofit rule

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The California Air Resources Board’s current Truck and Bus Rule requires truck owners to install diesel exhaust filters on their rigs by Jan. 1, 2011, with nearly all vehicles upgraded by 2014.The California Air Resources Board’s current Truck and Bus Rule requires truck owners to install diesel exhaust filters on their rigs by Jan. 1, 2011, with nearly all vehicles upgraded by 2014.

As one major regulation affecting the trucking industry takes effect in California, another could be softened a bit in light of current economic woes. A California Air Resources Board regulation to reduce greenhouse gases from certain heavy-duty vehicles was finalized in early December and was slated to take effect Jan. 1. The rule, which applies to 53-foot van and refrigerated trailers and long-haul tractors pulling them, requires certain specs on model year 2011 and newer equipment purchased after Jan. 1 and a retrofit of tire and aerodynamics specs for tractors and trailers beginning as early as January 2012.

Regarding both new and retrofit equipment, CARB is tying compliance to specs and devices verified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s SmartWay program. (For details on the spec’ing requirements for new and old equipment, see “Going to California?” CCJ October 2009.)

But while the GHG regulation is moving forward as drafted, CARB last month directed its staff to return to the board next April with a new provision that would provide truck fleets more flexibility in cleaning up their diesel emissions under the state’s Truck and Bus Rule in light of the recession’s effect on the industry. CARB says its staff demonstrated that the down economy has reduced the amount of time trucks have operated, thus reducing harmful diesel emissions that would have occurred during normal economic times.

The hesitation on moving full steam ahead on the Truck and Bus Rule also could be related to a controversy surrounding the research CARB relied on in adopting the rule. At the same meeting, the board directed staff to withdraw and redo the health report that carried Hien Tran’s name since it was learned last year that he falsely claimed he held a Ph.D. in statistics from the University of California-Davis. The implementation of the rule will continue to be carried out during this period. The board also neglected to second a motion by a member who wanted to repeal the diesel rule after learning of Tran’s misconduct.

“With today’s set of actions, we confidently set out to revalidate the science supporting our rules and set up a process to allow for more flexibility for small businesses in the regulation given the down economy,” says Mary Nichols, CARB chairman. “We take the employee misconduct very seriously, but it should not affect an extremely important public health measure that has been extensively reviewed throughout the scientific community. We have tightened up our procedures to ensure an incident like this never happens again.”

CARB passed the Truck and Bus Rule last December that requires truck owners to install diesel exhaust filters on their rigs by Jan. 1, 2011, with nearly all vehicles upgraded by 2014. For more information on the GHG and Truck and Bus rules, as well as other regulations affecting truck owners, click here.