Truck News



TORONTO, Ont. - Even by California standards, this is a strange one. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has announced sweeping changes to the emissions requirements of trailer refrigeration uni...

WHAT TO DO?: If you want to haul into or out of California, you may have to run newer reefer units.
WHAT TO DO?: If you want to haul into or out of California, you may have to run newer reefer units.

TORONTO, Ont. –Even by California standards, this is a strange one. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has announced sweeping changes to the emissions requirements of trailer refrigeration units (what most of us simply call ‘reefers’), which will impact all refrigerated fleets that cross the state line. Phase 1 of the new regulations is slated to go into effect Dec. 31, 2008.

As part of Phase 1, TRUs with a model year of 2001 or older will need to comply with the regulation’s new low-emission standard. Normally when an equipment-related regulation is passed, existing equipment is grandfathered -or exempted -from the rule. Not in this case. In fact, older equipment is the principle target of CARB’s proposed TRU rules.

But that’s not the only thing that’s unusual about the rule. There’s also a not-so-minor detail that has yet to be ironed out. With the implementation date now just six months away, CARB still has yet to receive the necessary approval from its own

parent group, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Before the impending new standards can be enforced, the federal EPA must grant a waiver of preemption under the federal Clean Air Act. What was supposed to be a mere formality, has now developed into a prolonged and ongoing saga that has thrown the future of the rules into question.

The American Trucking Associations (ATA) has voiced its displeasure with the proposed rules, arguing that the cost of compliance is too heavy a burden for the trucking industry to bear. With the ATA threatening legal action if the changes are approved, it appears the federal EPA is having second thoughts about providing the necessary waiver.

“This seems to be headed for some kind of legal battle either way,” explained Ignacio Aguerrevere, director of marketing with TRU manufacturer, Carrier Transicold. “The implication for customers is that on December 31 of this year, the regulations are supposed to go into effect. If it’s denied by the EPA, then people don’t need to do anything. But if it’s approved by the EPA, it’s going to be challenged, but in the meantime it holds water.”

If you’re a refrigerated fleet that does business in California, sitting idly by and waiting for the dust to settle between CARB, the federal EPA and the ATA is not an advisable compliance strategy, Aguerrevere warned.

“Customers need to start thinking about their replacement strategies, regardless of what way it goes,” he suggested.

Scott Bates, aftermarket product manager with Thermo King, recently told Truck News“The longer the delay, the harder it is for customers to become compliant by the Dec. 31 deadline. If a customer is waiting (for the EPA waiver to be granted), they may only have a few months or less” to get ready.

Refrigerated goods transporters seem to have divided into two camps: one that is already well on its way to bringing its reefer fleet into compliance with the pending rules; and the other which is taking a wait-and- see approach.

The new rules include two performance standards: the Low- Emission TRU In-Use Performance Standard (LETRU); and the more stringent Ultra-Low Emission TRU In-Use Performance Standard (ULETRU). As of Dec. 31, 2008, all TRUs with a model year of 2001 or older must meet the LETRU standard.

Reefers with an engine built in 2002 must comply with the LETRU standard by Dec. 31, 2009. Those built in 2003 will have to go straight to ULETRU levels by Dec. 31, 2010 and all reefer motors built after 2003 have seven years from their model year to comply with ULETRU levels. The full details of the proposed regulation can be viewed at:

The easiest, and possibly the most cost-effective way, to comply with the rules as of Dec. 31 is to adopt a seven-year life-cycle for any reefers that will be operated in California. Most larger fleets already employ shorter trade cycles, according to Jerry Duppler, trailer product manager with Thermo King.

“Historically, some of the larger long-haul fleets have determined that in five to seven years, there’s a tipping point where they feel it’s advantageous to them to bring in new equipment with new warranties,” Duppler said, adding “those trade cycles tend to change with economic conditions.”

For most Canadian carriers that haul into and out of California, that seems the most logical approach. Sending only newer-model TRUequipped trailers to the Golden State and adopting a shorter tradein cycle should be enough to ensure compliance with the impending rules. It’s the local fleets domiciled in California that may find the rules the most difficult to meet, Duppler pointed out.

“A lot of these fleets domiciled in California are distribution fleets and they tend to have not planned trade cycles of less than seven years, and this has put significant challenges in front of them in terms of changing their basic operating model,” he points out.

Another option is to replace only the engine on older TRUs. Aguerrevere said this is a viable option if the rest of the reefer’s components and the reefer itself remain in good shape. However, he added “If you run a lot of hours, you may want to change the reefer altogether.”

Short of replacing older reefers or their engines, the remaining compliance option is to equip older units with a CARB-approved emissions control device, such as a diesel particulate filter.

A list of approved emission control devices is available at:

But DPFs and catalysts are costly add-ons, which makes this option undesirable for most fleets.

While the cost of complying with California’s impending new TRU emissions restrictions may be enough to make you cringe, the cost of non-compliance is even greater.

If you knowingly violate the rules, fines ranging from US$1,000-$50,000 per day – or even imprisonment – are possible.

Print this page

Have your say:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *