California truckers feel effects of CARB’s diesel engine ban

California Air Resources Board now bans all diesel vehicles over 14,000 pounds, built before 2010 from operating

CALIFORNIA – For local trucking companies like Visalia’s FW Trucking, updating their diesel fleet to meet clean air regulation standards effective in California has been a costly ordeal spanning over a decade.

FW Trucking owner Tim Thomas’ diesel fleet, like many others in the state, are scrambling to meet the regulations implemented by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) in 2008. CARB now requires most diesel trucks to have the newest generation of advanced diesel technology. The new requirements ban all diesel vehicles over 14,000 pounds and built before 2010 from operating in California.  

“It’s been an ongoing process of problems trying to obtain new equipment that isn’t ready or perfected yet,” Thomas said. “We’re just now getting the parts we need that haven’t even been CARB-certified yet.” 

Under the new regulations, only 2010 and newer generation diesel commercial vehicles are allowed to be registered in the state, with few exceptions. Even though most bus and truck fleet owners in the state have already complied with the regulation, there is still a lot of work to do. According to a statement from CARB, 1.58 million vehicles have been upgraded. But the board estimates that around 20,000 vehicles, and 70,000 big rig trucks, have yet to comply with the rule and are prohibited from operating in California. 

“Diesel exhaust is responsible for 70% of the cancer risk from airborne toxics,” CARB states on their website. “Therefore, by Jan. 1, 2023, nearly all trucks and buses will be required to have 2010 or newer model year engines to reduce particulate matter (PM) and oxides of nitrogen (NOx) emissions.”

Exceptions to the rule will be made for vehicles that have replaced their engine with one manufactured after 2010, and for vehicles that travel less than 1,000 miles a year. Thomas says this exception is unreasonable due to the difficulty obtaining parts.  

“Whenever you pass a law and the technology isn’t there, the manufacturers will only put out what they can,” said Thomas. “It’s the nature of the business that these trucks travel many miles a year.”

The trucking industry has pushed back on the ban, especially in light of recent supply-chain issues across the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only have parts been difficult to obtain, but the pandemic created a backlog leaving truckers in significant debt.

Since 2011, the latest generation of diesel technology standards for commercial trucks has achieved more than 98% reduction of harmful emissions. It utilizes selective catalytic reduction (SCR) systems and advanced particulate filters to achieve fewer emissions.

The Diesel Technology Forum is a group of diesel stakeholders, users, government officials and environmentalist groups who analyze all things diesel. According to a 2021 data analysis by the forum, 48% of all commercial diesel vehicles in California were 2011 and newer. Still, California is behind the 54% national average.

For trucks nationwide, this has translated into saving more than 20 billion gallons of fuel since 2011. Those include preventing 202 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions and 27 million tons of NOx emissions. 

California has provided a long lead time and financial assistance to the smallest fleets known as the CARB truck loan assistance program. It is designed to support the 2008 regulation by enhancing credit to small businesses upgrading to vehicles with model year engines 2010 or newer. 

Thomas says the program has helped, but still feels that the legal hoops required and backlog is going to cause trouble for the economy moving forward. 

“You can’t take that big of a percentage of the commercial vehicles off the road with no consequence,” Thomas said. 

According to CARB, the new generation of advanced technology vehicles now serving California’s trucking fleet will continue to be a key aspect of California’s clean air and climate strategy, even as it moves toward zero emission technology in the future.

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