By Tillie Fong, September 18, 2013
ARB inspector Bill O’Brien, left, talks to trucker Monte Eberhardt at a pollution checkpoint Tuesday on Highway 99.
For the past few months, Monte Eberhardt had been hearing from
other big rig drivers that he may have to retrofit his cattle-hauling
truck to meet new emission standards.
“I looked it up about the filter and I have until the end of January,” said Eberhardt, 40, of Wheatland.
the owner of Eberhardt Livestock found that he was wrong Tuesday, when
he was pulled over just north of Sacramento for a state Air Resources Board truck inspection.
He was issued a citation for not having an emission control label on
the engine of his 1998 Kenworth rig, and was told that he would be fined
$800 if he did not have the engine tested and certified as meeting emission standards
within 45 days. That means he either gets a particulate-matter filter
installed or switches out the engine for a 2007 or newer model. At that
point, the fine drops to $300.
“I became an owner-operator
recently, and I’m still learning,” said Eberhardt, who bought the truck a
year and half ago. He said he would likely install a particulate-matter
filter, which he estimates would cost about $20,000. “The truck is
still in pretty good shape,” he said.
Tuesday, two ARB inspectors were checking big rigs southbound on Highway 99,
just north of the split with Interstate 5, to see if they were
complying with the agency’s requirements. Older trucks were pulled aside
for inspection, and refrigerated trucks were also checked to see if the engine for the refrigerator unit was in compliance with idling regulations.
were asked to rev up their engines so that the inspectors could see if
black smoke was coming out of the smokestacks. Then they were asked to
pop open the hood, so that inspectors could check the engine to see what
year it was and whether it had an emission control label. Inspectors
can also check via laptop to whether the truck has been registered and
whether the company has other trucks. If the truck passes muster, then a
yellow sticker is placed on the windshield, which means it doesn’t need
to be checked again for three months.
The inspection usually takes less than five minutes, and a number of newer trucks were allowed to bypass the inspection.
don’t want to take up any more time than we have to,” said Mark
Tavianini, manager of the ARB’s mobile source compliance training
section, who was helping with the inspections.“We know they have a job
to do. Time is money.”
For the 57 trucks pulled over at the spot
Tuesday, eight citations were issued. Eberhardt’s citation was one of
three involving emission control labels. Three citations fell under
statewide truck and bus regulations, one was for commercial vehicle
idling, and one was a transport refrigeration unit-related citation. For
the first six months of 2013, the agency has conducted about 3,100
inspections of trucks and buses in the state and has issued about 390
“There are likely many trucks still out of compliance
with California’s strict anti-pollution laws,” said ARB spokeswoman
Melanie Turner. “Our overall goal is for all heavy-duty diesel trucks to
have 2010 or newer engines by 2023.”
On any given day, about a
million trucks and buses are traveling in the state, half of which are
based in California, according to Turner. The exhaust from those
vehicles contains particulate matter – soot – as well as nitrogen oxides, which can adversely affect health.
“Seventy percent of the cancer risk from air toxics is from diesel
particulate matter,” Turner said. “Technology has improved so much over
the past 15 years. Now filters are available that reduce diesel
emissions by 85 percent or more, compared to having no filter at all.”
that reason, in 2008, the ARB established rules to reduce those
pollutants from diesel-powered vehicles weighing 14,000 pounds or more. A
phased schedule was set up for trucks to either install a
particulate-matter filter or switch over to a 2010 engine, depending on
the year of the engine. For example, Eberhardt’s truck would fall in the
schedule for 1996-1999 engines, which are required to have a
particulate-matter filter installed by 2012, and switch out to a 2010
engine by the year 2020.
Under the regulations, all trucks with
2005 to 2006 engines have until the end of this year to install a
filter, so another 50,000 trucks would have to come into compliance
before Jan. 1. In addition, companies that have two or more trucks in
their fleet must have at least one truck retrofitted by 2014. After
that, the company faces a $1,000-a-month fine for every month out of
“People will be finding that the flexibility will go
away,” said Bruce Tuter, an ARB air resource specialist, about the fleet
For Daniel Guerrero, 40, of Madera, owner of
Daniel’s Trucking, that was bad news. He has three trucks in his fleet,
and he was driving one of them – a Freightliner with a 2000 engine –
when he was pulled over Tuesday. None of his trucks have particulate
“It puts the heat on the small guys, said
Guerrero, who learned that he had to retrofit one truck this year,
another truck next year and a third after that. “Only the big companies
have the resources to comply with the regulations. When I bought this
truck, it was legal. Now they’re saying it’s not. They are changing the
He estimates that it would cost $12,000 to $18,000 to
install the particulate-matter filter on one of his trucks. If he had to
replace an engine, Guerrero said, that would run $25,000 to 30,00,
while getting a new truck – for $140,000 to $160,000 – would be out of
the question. He said the regulations would drive him out of business,
as he can’t afford to make the necessary upgrades.
“I will have to
downsize and let go of the other drivers,” he said. “I am going to run
this until the end of this year, and I will have to raise my rates.”
However, complying with the regulations may not be as onerous as
Guerrero suggested. A typical particulate filter usually runs about
“There are funding opportunities for the upgrades,” said
Eloy Florez, an ARB air pollution specialist. “They (truckers) are
eligible for funding up to $45,000 toward a truck replacement.”
was interested in seeing if he was eligible for funding to help with
the retrofits, and although he was cited, he said he didn’t mind the
“We can’t breathe dirty air,” he said. “There are lot of vehicles, cars and trucks. It is what it is.”