State regulations put local trucking businesses at risk
Alvin Urke has run his Grass Valley excavation and septic business, Urke Construction, for almost 40 years. Urke, though, says he believes he will go out of business due to retroactive truck and bus regulations the California Air Resources Board, also known as CARB, has implemented to reduce pollution and diesel particulates statewide.
“I have one truck that is a 1979, the other one is a 1991,” Urke said. “They’re requiring me to make those older trucks comply with the 2010 regulations, and that costs a lot of money. I can’t upgrade them because of the types of older engines they have.”
In 1998, diesel particulate matter, or diesel soot or exhaust, was declared a cancerous toxic air contaminant by the state’s scientific review panel. In September 2000, CARB adopted the Diesel Risk Reduction plan, a strategy to reduce diesel emissions from different sources across California, including school buses, garbage trucks and cargo equipment.
“The last big piece of the puzzle, and this is going back to 2008, were private trucks,” CARB Information Officer Karen Caesar said. “We adopted the truck regulations in 2008, and they were amended in 2010, and then a lot of the regulation was phased in.”
While there have been amendments since, CARB’s final regulation order was adopted in December 2011, it became effective on Jan. 1, 2012. While there are many factors that define the regulations for individual truck owners and businesses, including the size of a company’s truck fleet, in basic terms the policy requires all 1996-2006 model year vehicles weighing more than 14,000 pounds to meet certain state emission reduction requirements.
Compliance with the regulations requires truck and bus operators to install particulate matter filters on engines. Truck owners are also asked to replace engines older than a 2010 model year in a staggered implementation process that extends to 2023.
The regulation states that by 2023, all commercial trucks be up to 2010 model engine year standards. If found out of compliance, truck owners will be cited and fined an additional $1,000 per month they are out of compliance.
“If someone has a 15-year-old truck, they can upgrade it and operate it for another five years, till 2020,” said Tony Brasil, the head of CARB’s Heavy Duty Diesel Implementation branch. “But with the 2020-2023 time frame, you don’t have options to keep trucks anymore. At that point, the truck or engine needs to be replaced.”
Urke, though, says that buying a new truck would cost him anywhere from $100,000 to $200,000, and the filter truck owners must install to stay in compliance until 2020 costs $20,000 to $40,000 per truck.
“To my way of thinking, they haven’t considered the economic impact of this,” Urke said. “That’s probably what people are going to get hit with eventually here because in order to go out and invest all this money, people are going to have to raise their rates.”
Foster and Son Trucking owner Marsha Foster says her company has already upgraded six trucks with the particulate matter engine filters, and says that CARB regulations are putting people in the area out of business.
“Why didn’t they just let the trucking industry let the older trucks cycle out?” Foster said. “When you have a car and it gets old, you don’t keep it. They should have let everything just cycle out. Because of this, I have lost respect for the government. We all want clean air, there’s other ways to do it.”
According to the Owner-Operator Independent Driver Association, also known as OOIDA, CARB’s regulations are estimated to reduce diesel emissions 68 percent by 2014 and nitrogen oxide by 25 percent.
The regulation reportedly is expected to save 9,400 lives between 2011 and 2025, and reduce health care costs, with estimated benefit values of $48 billion to $69 billion. National Federation of Independent Business California Legislative Director Ken DeVore, though, says that scientific studies the government previously reported that support the need for CARB’s regulations are based on faulty data, and that regulations will cost the trucking industry $10 billion.
“Forbes pointed out that the data that was used has been discredited by another leading researcher at UC Berkeley,” DeVore said. “Dr. James Enstrom, a UCLA professor who was fired for saying this, determined in a study that there was no statistical evidence supporting an increase in deaths.”
Hills Flat Lumber Co. co-owner Jeff Pardini is a member of the NFIB leadership committee, and says the regulations on trucks will not just affect businesses, but everybody in the state.
“Trucks transport everything in this state, and if you notice in the last couple of years the prices of everything have gone up,” Pardini said. “A lot of it has come from the CARB regulations. It is a tax on every person in the state, and the conservative estimates are it costs every household about $250-$400 a month in additional costs.”
Pardini added that CARB’s truck and bus regulations are being implemented on top of a potential cap and trade gas proposal that would raise the price of gas in the state.
“We already pay 69 cents a gallon tax in the state, and we’re going to be at $5 a gallon for diesel if the proposal goes through,” Pardini said. “That is insanity, and that will affect everybody that uses fuel.”
Calvary Bible Church administrator Kristin Hahner says the regulations have cost them $75,000 to upgrade their bus.
“California continues to make it difficult for small business,” Hahner said. “Many give up and move to other states in order to stay in business and avoid over-reaching regulations. Churches and other non-profits don’t have the option to just move, we simply have to comply.”
Brasil, though, says that groups and businesses that are concerned about the costs of staying in compliance with the regulations can apply for exemptions to give them more time to meet regulations. Businesses can apply for an economic hardship program which will allow them to drive their current trucks for longer and still be in compliance.
“We will be putting out information as to how owners could take certain steps that would bring them into compliance,” Brasil said. “If they can demonstrate that financially they can’t do it and they can’t get financing to take those steps, they could get additional time.”
For Urke, some of CARB’s recent exemptions will allow him to run his trucks for 5,000 miles each year till 2020, as opposed to putting him out of business completely. He says that it still limits what he can do, and that he will most likely be taking a 30 percent pay cut.
“At my age, I can’t justify going and buying new trucks,” Urke said. “I don’t know whether I’m still going to go out of business or not this next year, but as far as I know I’m legal to stay on the road. I like working, I enjoy it, and I’m still healthy so in the meantime, I’ll just keep chugging along.”
To contact Staff Writer Ivan Natividad, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4236.
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