The California effect

What happens in California never stays in California for long, and that is especially true now when it comes to vehicle emissions regulations. Love it or hate it, California casts a long shadow across the U.S. from sea to shining sea. As the seventh largest economy in the world, accounting for some 15% of the country's gross domestic product (GDP), limiting California's national influence was probably

What happens in California never stays in California for long, and that is especially true now when it comes to vehicle emissions regulations. Love it or hate it, California casts a long shadow across the U.S. from sea to shining sea. As the seventh largest economy in the world, accounting for some 15% of the country's gross domestic product (GDP), limiting California's national influence was probably impossible from the start, although some folks gave it a serious try.

Today, most fleets operating in California are subject to at least four sets of emissions regulations. In addition to the regulations governing a truck's engine emissions, operators of diesel-fueled trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating of over 10,000 lbs. are also not permitted to idle more than five minutes, even during periods of federally mandated rest. Consequently, many truck operators are now required to use some form of idle reduction technology to provide cab heating or cooling while parked in California.

Emissions from these idle reduction devices themselves are likewise regulated; fleets must install only California Air Resources Board (CARB) approved and verified idle reduction systems on 2007 or newer model-year vehicles. If a fleet uses fuel-fired auxiliary power units (APUs), for example, then those systems must be fitted with “Verified Level 3” particulate filters in order to comply with regulations.

As of Jan. 1 of this year, refrigerated fleets operating in California came under a fourth regulation on vehicle emissions, this time for their refrigerated units, dubbed TRUs or Transport Refrigeration Units by CARB. Enforcement of the new in-use performance standards for TRUs began in earnest from the very start, with CARB reporting that inspectors issued “close to 100 citations for violations during the first two weeks of January alone, with penalties of up to $1,000 per violation.”

“CARB has had and will continue to have an impact nationwide,” notes Sándor Lau, development director for Cascade Sierra Solutions. “They are helping to drive the adoption of idling devices, [current technology] TRUs and particulate filters. We have a client in South Carolina, for instance, who pays a great deal of attention to what is happening in California because his operation is just as affected by CARB regulations as it is by regulations in his own state.”

MORE TO COME

Retrofit of older vehicles is the next item on the CARB regulatory agenda. Passed in December 2008, the Diesel Truck and Bus Rule, as it now stands, will begin requiring truck owners to install diesel exhaust filters on their older in-use vehicles by Jan. 1, 2011, with nearly all vehicles to be upgraded by 2014. In April, CARB is set to consider a provision to provide truck operators with more regulatory compliance latitude, but significant changes to the rule itself are not expected.

There are also special emissions regulations for drayage trucks serving ports and for off-road vehicles, plus new requirements pending for fitting trailers with aerodynamic devices to reduce fuel consumption; but you get the picture. California means business when it comes to reducing vehicle emissions. Prohibiting idling is just one element in a very comprehensive and complex web of emissions standards that reaches across the country to impact all fleets crossing into the Golden State.

More is yet to come. The waiver of Clean Air Act preemption granted to California by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on June 30, 2009, now also gives California authority to enact stricter greenhouse gas emissions standards for motor vehicles than the federal government's, beginning with model-year 2009. EPA must approve any rulemaking, however, before such rules may go into effect. Other states can use the precedent established by this action and ask for similar waivers. At least 13 states and the District of Columbia have already done so.

CALIFORNIA SHORE TO SHORE

“The California effect will be huge,” notes Dean Lande, manager of business development for Carrier Transicold. “Fleets are having to make some tough decisions. Some are positioning assets just for operation in California while others are retrofitting the entire fleet. As a result, we will see some tremendous consolidation to keep fleets competitive. It is just too expensive to do all of this, especially for smaller operations.

“On the APU side, there are already four states — New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and North Carolina — planning to adopt California's truck emissions regulations,” he adds. “They are just watching to see how successful it is in California.”

“There is no question that CARB is, to a large extent, driving the emissions regulation process,” notes Lou Siegel, senior vp for Dometic Automotive, a supplier of battery-based systems. “The ripple effect from California is spreading out across the country and will affect fleets nationwide. We expect other states and jurisdictions to follow California's lead. Trucking fleets operating in neighboring states and traveling in and out of California will have to meet CARB requirements. Because California is such a large state with the nation's largest economy, any fleet with national operations will probably have to comply.”

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