Keeping Truck and Bus Fleets in Air Quality Compliance: CARB Truck and Bus Regulation Enforcement Case Studies
“So you are telling me that I have to spend a million dollars to bring my fleet into compliance… which I just bought for two hundred grand?!” President Truck Fleet fumed.
“Yes sir, that is correct,” it was a rhetorical question and I didn’t have the mettle to remind him that he was advised of his legal grounds to return the fleet for a full refund; advice that he chose to disregard.
California Air Resources Board (CARB) truck fleet violations account for approximately 8 out of 10 CARB enforcement settlements and of these, the largest fines tend to be related to violations of CARB’s Truck and Bus Regulation (13 CCR §2025). While the majority of truck cases result in fines under $20,000, Truck and Bus Regulation violations frequently result in fines in excess of $100,000. In 2015 CARB stepped up its truck roadside inspection program by 35%, simultaneously implementing their “SMART Audit” system. Trucks stopped by California Highway Patrol for smoke violations or random compliance checks are run through the SMART system to identify fleets that may not be in compliance with the Truck and Bus Regulations. Their owners may have to deal with additional auditing and possible fines.
Truck & Bus Regulation fines are driven by health implications of exposure to diesel exhaust. In 1993, a New England Journal of Medicine study, “An Association between Air Pollution and Mortality in Six U.S. Cities,” more commonly referred to as the “Six Cities Study,” directly linked exposure to PM2.5 (airborne particles smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter) with premature death. According to lead author, Douglas Dockery, “People in the dirtier cities were dying faster than people in the clean cities. We found that the mortality risk was strongly associated with fine particulate concentrations. The differences we found in life expectancy—two to three years shorter—were remarkable.” (https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/features/six-cities-air-pollution-study-turns-20/) One of the largest sources of PM2.5 is diesel exhaust. In 2012, the United Nations International Agency for Research on Cancer classified diesel engine exhaust in the highest risk category, “Carcinogenic to Humans (Group 1).”
The Truck and Bus regulation regulates privately and federally owned fleets of diesel trucks greater than 14,000 lbs. gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR); fleets are defined as one or more trucks. It requires fleets to accelerate their vehicle turnover such that by 2023, all diesel trucks operating in California will meet 2010 model year diesel engine emission standards. 2010 is the year in which the most stringent emission standards kicked in. CARB built flexibility into the regulation to give truck owners compliance options, but it resulted in a regulation that has more twists and turns then Glendora Mountain Road. Even the most seasoned professionals have to contact CARB staff for clarification. CARB does offer online resources to help fleets with their compliance questions (Google search term, “CARB Truck and Bus Regulation”) and offers free training courses including a recorded webinar (Google search term, “CARB Training” see the 500 Series courses). Alternatively, Alta Environmental is well-versed in the Truck & Bus regulation and the TRUCRS online reporting system and can help with compliance planning.
In lieu of a dissection of the regulation, we offer case studies to describe the regulation.
Case 1, CARB v. NewStar Fresh Foods. CARB published the following release on August 11, 2016. “…An investigation by the Air Resources Board (ARB) showed that NewStar Fresh Foods, LLC failed to verify that each hired or dispatched vehicle is in compliance with the Truck and Bus (TB) Regulation and one hired fleet was ultimately determined out of compliance with the TRU Airborne Toxic Control Measure and the TB regulation… To settle the case, NewStar Fresh Foods, LLC agreed to the $10,000.00 penalty and to comply with TRU, TB, and other ARB programs.”
The key words in this case, “hired or dispatched vehicle.” NewStar Fresh Foods was not the owner of the vehicles in question, they hired a third party hauling company to deliver their goods. In these instances, the company listed on the bill of lading is liable for the transporting truck’s compliance with the Truck and Bus Regulation, even if it is a third party vehicle. CARB asserts that it is the responsibility of the company whose goods are being transported to conduct due diligence verification that the trucks it dispatches into the state of CA are in compliance with the Truck and Bus regulation. Evidence of this due diligence could be an CARB issued certificate of compliance or a letter from the hauler verifying compliance with 13CCR §2025.
Case 2, CARB v. Trucking Company A. This case is written in anonymity and with facts adjusted to protect confidentiality. Trucking Company A, is a national contract trucking company operating fleets based in over 20 states including California. CARB began its investigation in response to allegations that Trucking Company A tampered with their trucks’ diesel particulate filters (DPF, exhaust treatment devices that filter out fine particles). Upon investigation, CARB staff confirmed that the exhaust systems had been tampered with on multiple diesel-powered trucks owned by Trucking Company A and that maintenance personnel were improperly using a power washer to clean the DPFs, damaging the filters. CARB documented violations included failures to: (1) properly maintain DPFs, (2) properly self-inspect the fleet, as required by the Periodic Smoke Inspection Program (PSIP); (3) comply with engine emission control label (ECL) requirements; and (4) comply with the particulate matter emission reduction requirements of the Truck and Bus Regulation. In terms of severity, the last violation carried the most significant penalty.
CARB staff met with Trucking Company A representatives on several occasions but no settlement agreement was reached, and the case was referred to the Office of the Attorney General for litigation. The Attorney General alleged that Trucking Company A operated 5 trucks with malfunctioning DPFs over a period of 18 months. The maximum fine for such a violation is $1,800 per day per violation, the total potential fine exceeding $3.4 million linked to DPF violations alone. A court mediated settlement was achieved and Trucking Company A paid on the order of $400,000 to the State.
As for President Truck Fleet, the name is fictitious, but his story is true. After hiring experts to investigate his regulatory and technical options to legally operate his lemons in California, none to his liking, he transferred that business to another state, along with the trucks. For the California market, he established a new business for which he purchased newer, CARB compliant trucks. Regarding his right to demand a refund for the soon to be noncompliant trucks, the broker from whom he purchased the trucks had not included the CARB required disclosure statement on any of the sales documents, a practice frowned upon by CARB Enforcement Staff; President Truck Fleet chose to not pursue the tactic of reporting the broker to CARB.
To learn more about the Truck and Bus regulation and how Alta can aid you with your fleet compliance, give us a call at 562-495-5777 or email our Air Quality Experts:
Kimba Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .