A reminder to all: Truckers want clean air, too

Over the past several years the California trucking industry has worked closely with both the Legislature and the California Air Resources Board (ARB) to find practical and realistic ways to clean up diesel trucks without putting an undue burden on the businesses in this state.

For example, in 2006 the trucking industry transitioned to a new ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel and has worked with the ARB on rules to curb truck idling.  In addition, we supported legislation that would have banned the registration of any truck equipped with a partially or fully mechanical engine made before 1994, in order to remove some of the dirtiest and most polluting engines from the road.

California truckers are focused on doing their part to clean up California's air.  We know that as newer trucks come on to the market they run cleaner and produce less harmful emissions; consider that every truck purchased this year will yield the same emissions as six trucks purchased two years ago.  Unfortunately these newer vehicles can cost between $120,000 and $150,000 and, unlike cars, trucks are designed to be used for a longer period of time.

In addition to the various regulations targeting truck emissions, the ARB is currently drafting a new emissions regulation that will be taken up by the board this October.  This new regulation would require that every diesel truck or bus operating in California meet a stringent new emission standard.

Although this regulation is still a work in progress, one thing is clear: in the next five years every diesel truck or bus operating in California, regardless of the year it was manufactured, would be required to meet this new emission standard. This means that more than one million diesel trucks and buses operating on California's roads would need to be retrofitted or replaced within the next five years.  Considering that the cost of retrofits ranges from $15,000 to $30,000, and that the cost of a new truck can exceed $120,000, this regulation would come with an unprecedented price tag on California's businesses as well as consumers, who are already facing rising fuel and food prices, a housing and credit crunch, and an overall recession.

Given our state's estimated $20 billion shortfall, there are precious few state resources available to pay for this sort of far-reaching regulation. Some have mentioned that bond money will be available to clean up trucks, but the bulk of this money has already been allocated for clean-up efforts at the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports.  Others have pointed to the ARB's Carl Moyer clean air program as a potential source to tap into funds for clean trucks.  Unfortunately, there is less than $150 million in this fund and that money is only available for those who are not under an ARB regulation, such as the new emissions rule. 

So unless truck owners had already started the cumbersome Carl Moyer application process, come October they will not be eligible for any of these funds. Other potential compliance mechanisms that have been mentioned, such as the purchase of "hybrid" trucks, are not yet feasible because such technology simply does not exist on the mass market and the cost of these vehicles is double the cost of a new diesel truck.

While California truckers want to do our part to clean the air that all our families breathe, this new regulation is troubling to many in the business community because it comes at a time when California is already enduring a severe economic downturn. We are joining with a broad coalition that includes businesses, non-profits and agriculture to work with the ARB to craft a sensible truck and bus replacement rule that both cleans the air and keeps California's economy moving forward.

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