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Impact of California emission regulations abates, but more rules coming down the pike

by Tim Linden | January 20, 2011
A year ago, truck drivers were loudly complaining about new California engine emission regulations that required many truck operators to retrofit older engines with costly repairs. This year, the noise has died down, and most produce industry truckers have complied.

"We are still hearing some complaints. And occasionally we here of a delay in a shipment because of a truck that hasn't complied," said Ken Gilliland, director of transportation for Western Growers Association in Irvine, CA. "But for the most part, truckers have faced the fact that if they want to do business in California, they have to comply."

Paul Kazan, owner and president of Target Interstate Systems in New York, said that the California law, which went into effect Jan. 1, 2010, "did have an impact last year, but it's no longer an issue. I understand it costs $1,500 to $5,000 to retrofit the trucks. Some truckers last year refused to go into California for a few months," he said. "But the bottom line is, if you are in the business of hauling produce, you have to go into California and so you have to comply. This year it's not a bother anymore. Anyone in the business has already complied."

Mr. Gilliland said that moving forward, the main concern is that there appears to be no letup in sight of the number of regulations that California may enact in this arena. "First it was the engines, and then it was the equipment running the cooling unit on the trailer. Unfortunately, I don't think we have seen the end of it."

He explained that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's SmartWay program, which is designed to help consumers and business make "greener" buying choices when purchasing cars or trucks, has taken on the mantle of mandatory requirements in California. The state has regulations requiring all new vehicles to be SmartWay-certified, and in future years, older, less environmentally friendly tractor-trailers will be forced off the roads and out of the state.

The SmatWay program has also offered guidance on the use of low rolling resistance tires, which Mr. Gilliland said some truckers have complained about. "I have heard that they only offer advantages when a trucker is exceeding the highway speed limit," he said. "If going below the speed limit or driving around town, there are no advantages."

The tires, however, do cost more, so it may be a case of adding costs but adding no benefit.