In a recent informational workshop, it appeared that many trucking industry employees are not satisfied with California’s latest proposal–a maintenance program set forth by environmental regulators to update smog inspections for heavy-duty trucks that will mandate that carriers give their fleets quarterly smog tests, as opposed to the current requirements of annual inspections.
This proposal brings about the first potential requirement for motor carriers to submit smog tests upon crossing over the California border–whether or not they are domiciled in California. However, this regulation would also call for extra time to be offered to carriers in order for them to complete necessary truck reparations if they are found to be non-compliant and are operating up to three trucks.
Still, though, the final rule is not set to be considered by the California Air Resources Board until December of 2021, and CARB staff has explained that there is still much to be done in regards to perfecting the regulation, which would likely not be fully implemented until 2023.
This proposed regulation was first explained in California’s Mobile Source Strategy of 2016 and the state Senate Bill 210, which became law in 2019. Its primary goal is to ensure the high-quality maintenance of trucks’ emissions control systems and to better determine which vehicles may have malfunctions in their emissions control components so that quick and efficient repairs can be made. If these reparations are made in a timely manner, they can help to decrease the overall in-use of nitrogen oxides and the particulate matter emissions that come from non-gasoline, heavy-duty trucks weighing in at more than 14,000 pounds.
From these smog tests, data could be collected throughout the state of California at quick-stop testing sites at places such as at truck dealerships, or even through in-vehicle data diagnostics programs.
According to CARB air pollution specialist Krista Fregoso, this recent workshop came as a follow-up to answer questions from two previous meetings.
“Staff has revised the regulatory concepts based on stakeholder feedback and redrafted the concepts as draft-proposed regulatory text,” the announcement for the workshop explained. “The meeting discussion will focus on key updates to the concepts discussed at the December and February meetings.”
Some workshop participants asked if bigger fleets would have to report smog test results particularly quickly and if the schedule for the implementation of this kind of regulation was too demanding.
“For our organization, we hired nearly 8,000 sub-haulers as defined by the advanced clean fleet rule,” said J.B. Hunt Transport’s director of maintenance and equipment procurement, James Cottingham. “Those 8,000 sub-haulers represent roughly 308,000 pieces of equipment. How do you expect us to validate certificates for each and everyone of those trucks? It seems rather impossible.”
Because CARB board members are still working on gathering public feedback and working to find the best manners in which to help fleets adhere to these guidelines, the board asked for more insight from trucking companies.
“We’re still getting feedback on that,” said CARB air resources supervisor Cody Howard in response to Cottingham’s question, “and we would like further feedback from your group as well.”
The biggest worry for most of these fleets–rapidly increasing costs that could come from compliance to this regulation.
“Most people can relate to a smog check where they take their car in annually or maybe even less,” explained California-based environmental research for American Trucking Associations, Mike Tunnell. “But CARB has come up with the idea that they want to do it for trucks on a quarterly basis. According to CARB, only 3% of the trucks contribute 65% of truck-related particulate matter emissions, while for oxides of nitrogen, its 11% of the trucks contributing 47%. So, as we have seen with smog check programs in general, it becomes a matter of how well the program can identify malfunctioning vehicles while minimizing costs across the majority of vehicles which are compliant.”
Minimizing these costs is especially important for independent owner-operators, as well, explained president of Nisei Farmers League out of Fresno, Manuel Cunha Jr.
“The independent small trucker has it very, very difficult,” he said at the workshop. “If you’re going to make that small independent trucker go out and buy a $180,000 truck, and he only travels two or three months in California, [that] makes it even more difficult.”
CARB plans to have a back-office database where submissions for these smog tests can be stored, and on pre-OBD trucks, tests will be able to be run through a mobile testing device that comes from a third-party.
“The easiest way to seamlessly transfer the data would be through new software for the telematics systems many trucks now have,” explained Kenworth Truck Co.’s director of fleet management, Doug Powell.