The Shotgun Approach
California Air Resources Board attacks emissions with flurry of new truck restrictions

By Charlie Morasch
Staff Writer


One day, after technology advances, it will take hundreds of trucks to emit the same amount of carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide and diesel particulates as one truck from the late 1980s.

Until then, environmental agencies like the California Air Resources Board will continue to clamp down on items long held as marginally important.

Technology for cleaner-burning diesel engines, reefers and electrification at truck parking spaces continues to cut harmful emissions related to trucking. By 2010 to 2014, CARB expects innovations like low-carbon diesel to help the trucking industry emit far fewer greenhouse gases than ever before.

California officials want trucks and trailers to be equipped with aerodynamic fairings and automatic tire inflation systems to help fuel efficiency. They also want every truck stop parking space to be electrified, and they want to triple fines for violations of their five-minute idling limit.

CARB board members were scheduled to consider approving those possibilities and 41 amendments to the agency’s greenhouse gas reduction plan at their late-October board meeting.

CARB staff presented the amendments at a workshop Oct. 1. They acknowledged the rapid adoption process of regulations and that the agency has not discussed the regs much with trucking companies, trade associations and others.

CARB staffers kicked off the meeting by noting the seriousness with which their agency takes emissions.

“Snowmelt and spring blooms advanced two days per decade since 1955, and these impacts are just projected to get worse,” said CARB staffer Mike Robert. “This is a world I feel we can’t allow to materialize. We must act and we must act now.”

Robert’s opinion is backed up by CARB Chairwoman Mary Nichols, who announced the agency had increased its “discrete early action items” – rules CARB plans to enforce by Jan. 1, 2010. The original three were increased to nine, and CARB also announced it would move forward on a total of 44 early action measures to be enforced between 2010 and 2020.

CARB also plans to beef up anti-idling enforcement and triple the agency’s $100 fines to $300 for drivers caught violating the five-minute idling limit, which is set to take effect Jan. 1, 2008.

CARB is fast-tracking regulations that require trucks traveling in the state to be retrofitted with cab fairings, gap fairings, trailer skirts and single-wide tires to improve fuel efficiency. Agency officials also want to require some type of tire inflation monitoring or automatic inflation system by 2010.

The draft plan regulation said the agency could phase in the faring requirement until 100 percent of trucks would meet the requirement by 2013.

One size doesn’t fit all
The SmartWay Program – started originally as a volunteer program by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – aims to improve fuel economy, partly with the use of aerodynamic truck and trailer add-ons.

CARB officials propose to present truckers with financial incentives to improve fuel efficiency, yet they admit that the technology may not work at many loading docks. CARB documents also acknowledge that these solutions provide fuel savings only for long-haul trucks and don’t address how trucks that don’t haul their own trailers will be fitted.

 “They have not said which trucks and which trailers they’re planning on doing besides ‘all trucks,’ ” said Matt Schrap, manager of environmental affairs for the California Trucking Association.

 “That’s a little over the top considering they are not effective in all duty cycles.”

CARB estimates that adding either shore power or IdleAire-like direct access of heat and air conditioning to California’s remaining 6,600 truck stop spaces and 1,300 Caltrans rest area spaces would cost between $49.5 million and $132 million.

Such an effort could complicate matters for drivers who don’t want to use shore power or IdleAire in a state known for its scarcity of truck parking. In fact, California ranked 47th out of 49 states in its ratio of commercial parking spaces in a 2002 study by the Federal Highway Administration.

Looking ahead
One of CARB’s early action measures include requiring electric-powered reefers at distribution centers and grocery stores. Another will require cars and trucks to be electric hybrids. Those measures are considered to be not ready for implementation until after 2010, although CARB can speed up those time frames.

During one CARB workshop meeting with industry stakeholders, Edwin Lombard of the California Black Chamber of Commerce urged CARB to recognize the limited resources that small-business owners like truckers have to invest in equipment.

“If you provide them with a voluntary early action program, they can get started,” Lombard said. “If they have to wait and then pull the trigger quickly – they’re not going to be able to do so.”

CARB’s aggressive measures have proved difficult for manufacturers to keep up with as well.

Joe Suchecki of the Engine Manufacturers Association told CARB staffers that manufacturers have maintained engine performance and fuel economy while adjusting for lower emissions in recent years. He said, however, that fuel economy depends on many factors, including driving techniques.

Suchecki paused before addressing the agency’s staff members.

“Obviously you folks already have as much regulatory authority as you need,” he said.

One speaker at the September workshop was thrilled about the new rules.

Andrew Smith, CEO of Advance Transit Dynamics – which plans to build fairings and other aerodynamic features to meet CARB requirements – spoke glowingly of the technology and his understanding that it could improve mileage by up to 6 percent.

Smith said his company has come up with a futuristic-looking fairing that covers trailer doors but collapses out of the way to allow the doors to open.

“Most importantly, it looks cool,” Smith said. LL