CARB streamlines emissions tests for lighter trucks

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Updated Oct 26, 2010

The California Air Resources Board on Thursday, Oct. 21, voted to provide relief for fleet owners of medium-sized commercial diesel trucks by streamlining the procedures for testing their trucks’ emissions. The board’s decision amended the Periodic Smoke Inspection Program to exempt diesel fleet owners of delivery vans and larger pickup trucks 1998 and newer from mandatory annual smoke inspections because, under a new law, they must undergo a smog check every other year.

CARB says the decision is expected to save the industry about $4.2 million annually. The streamlined approach that removes the PSIP test requirement affects 77,000 lighter trucks with weights between 6,000 and 14,000 pounds. These vehicles will remain subject to an every-other-year smog check, which includes a smoke inspection.

“It makes good sense to amend this regulation,” says Mary Nichols, CARB chairman. “Our experts believe there is little air quality benefit to be gained from performing both types of smoke inspection. The board’s action today will help many business owners save time, save money and will still help to remove diesel pollution from the air, thus protecting public health.”

Enacted in 2007, AB 1488 requires diesel passenger cars and trucks manufactured after 1997 and weighing 14,000 pounds or less to be included in the California Smog Check Program, and thus be subject to biennial emissions testing starting Jan. 1, 2010. Administered by the Department of Consumer Affairs Bureau of Automotive Repair with assistance from CARB, diesel smog check inspections consist of a visual inspection of the emission control devices, a check of the vehicle’s onboard diagnostic system and a visual assessment of the vehicle’s smoke level.

The PSIP was signed into law in 1990 to control excess smoke emissions and tampering from fleets of heavy-duty diesel trucks and buses. The PSIP requires owners of California-based fleets with two or more diesel-powered vehicles weighing more than 6,000 pounds to conduct annual smoke opacity inspections. Vehicles that fail the test must be removed from service, repaired and retested.

With the 2010 implementation of biennial smog checks for lighter diesel vehicles, nearly 77,000 diesel vehicles were subject to both smog checks and the smoke test. Owners of these vehicles would have to submit to both an annual PSIP test and a smog check every other year. Inspections under the PSIP program average $55 per test, while a smog check averages $47.