California offers a golden opportunity

The California Air Resources Board, or CARB, is offering a special deal of sorts that many fleets operating in the Golden State may want to seriously consider taking advantage of.

CARB is allowing fleets who retrofit a truck with a particulate filter by July 1, 2011 – or make the commitment to retrofit a truck by May 1, 2011 – with the chance to delay retrofitting an additional truck until Jan. 1, 2017. There is no limit on how many trucks in any particular fleet can earn the “early action credit.”

The credit applies to trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 26,000 lbs.

“California fleets need to act now in order to take advantage of this special offer to clean up their fleets so that they are further along in complying with ARB’s diesel reduction regulations,” said ARB Chairman Mary D. Nichols. “Acting now not only makes good business sense, it also means communities can breathe cleaner air sooner.”

Here’s why you may want to consider making the commitment. According to CARB, under the Truck and Bus Regulation, vehicles with pre-1994 engines must be replaced with 2010 engines by 2015; vehicles with 1994-95 engines replaced by 2016. For carriers operating 1996-1999 engines, they must have a particulate filter installed starting in 2012, and then the vehicle can operate until 2020.

The requirements change slightly for each model year engine. You can read the full summary of the regulation here.

In essence, if you own a truck with an engine newer than 1996, you may have to install a particulate filter starting next year, depending on the actual year of your engine. If you have an engine that is 1995 and older, you can hold out until at least 2015, but then you will be on the hook for buying a new truck/engine that meets the current regulation.

Now there is a phase-in program CARB is offering. By registering all your vehicles by Jan. 31, 2012, you can outfit just a portion of your trucks at a time. On Jan. 1, 2012, only 30% of vehicles would need to have a particulate filter. That number jumps to 60% in 2012, 90% in 2014 and 100% by 2016.

All 2007 and newer vehicles automatically meet the requirements until 2023, when virtually all trucks on California roads must have a 2010 engine or newer installed.

By installing filters now, you could conceivably ensure your entire fleet is compliant with the regulations until at least 2017 for half the cost. By then, the half of your fleet that is not compliant may have been replaced anyway. And if you choose the “phase-in” option, you could potentially end up paying to outfit even a smaller portion of your fleet.

It’s worth looking into if you operate in California and would be required to comply with the regulations anyway.