Truck News


Is California dreaming when it comes to the state’s anti-idling rules?

LOS ANGELES, Calif. - Fleets and owner/operators that haul into California will have to be more cognizant of the equipment they operate there, thanks to a plethora of new emissions standards implement...

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Fleets and owner/operators that haul into California will have to be more cognizant of the equipment they operate there, thanks to a plethora of new emissions standards implemented by the California Air Resources Board (CARB).

The agency has outlined a number of new rules which will begin taking effect as early as January, 2008.

Target 1: APUs

Perhaps the biggest CARB regulation affecting trucking companies and O/Os (including those from out of state) is the impending ban on idling while in the sleeper berth and more stringent emissions standards for anti-idling equipment. Trucks in California have already been banned from idling more than five minutes (except when in traffic), but so far those with sleeper berths have been exempted. That exemption is slated to be removed Jan. 1.

Also in the new year, trucks equipped with 2007 engines will no longer be able to operate an auxiliary power unit (APU) or other anti-idling device unless it has been CARB-certified. It may be a difficult rule to comply with, however, since as of late October not one APU had received CARB-certification and the agency said it would take at least three months once the proper paperwork was submitted before approval would be granted. Therefore, as of Jan. 1, it’s likely there will be no CARB-approved APUs on the market, yet truckers with 07 engines will still be expected to comply with the anti-idling rule.

“As of this point, there’s been no decision from management to delay the rule,” David Chen, air pollution specialist with CARB, said at the recent American Trucking Associations (ATA) annual management conference. He placed the blame for the lack of CARB approvals on the APU manufacturers themselves.

“So far there’s still a lot of information that needs to be submitted that we don’t have. We can’t control how fast they get the information to us,” he said. Chen pointed out conditional approvals may be doled out once APU manufacturers submit the required paperwork, but as of late October no such permissions had been granted.

Adding further confusion, the requirement for CARB-compliant APUs will only apply to trucks operating 2007 engines. Previous model-year trucks will be exempt and permitted to continue operating APUs that don’t meet CARB’s stringent new emissions standards.

This prompted one trucking company executive in attendance to point out “We spent a lot of money to get these new engines and now you’re going to penalize us?”

Chen explained CARB’s reasoning for the rule is that it makes no sense for low-emission trucks to be equipped with an “anti-idling” system that produces more pollutants than the truck engine itself.

“We can’t let them use an APU if it’s going to emit more particulate matter than the heavy-duty engine,” he explained.

APU manufacturers in most cases will be required to add a diesel particulate filter (DPF) to their models. Companies that manufacture both engines and APUs, may instead opt to route the APU’s exhaust through the truck’s primary engine DPF. Fuel-fired heaters must also comply with CARB’s emissions standards for anti-idling equipment. While some have already been CARB-certified, a fuel-fired heater will provide little comfort for a driver laying over in California in July. Chen said that’s the new reality of operating in the state and he suggested trucking companies may want to re-evaluate how their drivers spend their off-duty time while operating in the Golden State.

“It may be worth looking into lodging,” said Chen. “It might make sense to stay in a hotel.”

Trucks with 2008 engines may still be allowed to idle indefinitely in California, but only if those engines are proven to emit less than 30 grams of NOx per hour. Cummins was the first to announce its 2008 engines would meet this standard, but CARB has yet to approve it. Engines that don’t receive the CARB stamp of approval will require a tamper-proof automatic shutdown system that will prevent the truck from idling for more than five minutes. The only time trucking companies will be able to de-activate the shutdown feature is during maintenance or while a power take-off device is in operation.

Target 2: Reefers

Refrigerated goods carriers hauling into California to provide us with that region’s bountiful supply of fruits and vegetables, face further restrictions.

Reefers (or transport refrigeration units “TRUs” as CARB calls them) will also have to comply with stricter emissions standards, beginning in late 2008. The full rules can be viewed online at

There are two emissions levels for refrigeration units: the low-emission standard (requiring at least a 50% PM reduction) and an ultra low-emission standard (with at least an 85% PM reduction). To get there, reefer manufacturers will likely be adding particulate traps, which could add about $5,000 to the cost of the equipment, Chen said.

TRUs with a model year of 2001 or earlier must comply with CARB’s low-emission standard by Dec. 31, 2008 and the ultra-low emission standard by Dec. 31, 2015. Many TRU manufacturers offer trade-in programs and financing options allowing customers to upgrade to CARB-compliant reefers. Reefer fleets that run into California face the following options: retrofit existing reefer units; replace existing TRU engines; establish a seven-year trade-in cycle; or create California-only refrigerated fleets.

CARB will require California-domiciled carriers that operate TRUs to obtain an identification number (IDN) and to report on how they have complied with the standards. The IDN is optional for out-of-state trucks, but Chen said voluntary compliance is encouraged to ensure smoother inspection procedures. For the most part, Chen advised reefer fleets to ask dealers if units are CARB-compliant before purchasing them.

“Before you buy, make sure it’s okay for California and maintain your filter according to what’s recommended,” he suggested.

The American Trucking Associations (ATA) initially fought to have CARB’s reefer rules overturned, pointing out that “the requirement will force nearly 340,000 refrigerated tractor-trailers nationwide to comply with California regulations, regardless of the amount of time spent operating in the state.”

ATA said the reefer standards could cost the trucking industry between US$775 million and US$1.4 billion – far more than EPA’s own estimates of US$87 to US$156 million. Nonetheless, the reefer rules are expected to soon receive final approval from the EPA which is the last requirement before the rule is passed into law.

Target 3: Older trucks

Finally, in a move aimed at ridding the state of old trucks altogether, CARB has introduced a proposal that would require all trucks built prior to 2004 to have 2007-level emissions. The ruling would be phased in gradually, with all trucks operating in the state achieving 2007 emissions levels by 2013.

If passed into law, older trucks would have to be upgraded with costly technology such as DPFs and NOx catalysts or use alternative fuels to bring emissions down to 2007 levels.

Tony Brasil, manager of in-use control measures with CARB, said by 2014 all trucks operating in California will have to meet 2007 emissions standards. This will affect tens of thousands of trucks that are nine years old or older.

“They have to go away by 2014,” Brasil said.

The impending CARB standard for older vehicles mirrors a similar rule launched by the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. The Clean Air Action Plan (CAAP) requires all trucking companies serving the ports to operate low-emission engines: trucks with EPA07 engines or model year 1996-2006 engines retrofitted with emissions-reducing technologies. The plan calls for a complete ban on trucks built prior to 1989 from port service by Jan. 1, 2008. The Intermodal Motor Carriers Conference (an offshoot of the ATA), predicted drayage rates would swell by 80% if older trucks were forced to comply with
the rule. The group also said the rule would force many small- and medium-sized trucking companies out of business.

Similar concerns have been voiced about CARB’s retrofitting requirements, with the cost of retrofits pegged at US$8,000 or more.

The ATA has been eyeing the situation in California with interest. Glen Kedzie, environmental counsel for the ATA, would not openly discuss the ATA’s position on CARB’s latest efforts during the association’s recent management conference.

“There is a lot of concern about where these things are going,” he admitted. “Things in Congress don’t move real quick, but we do have a lot of efforts underway.”

Kedzie said the association is pushing for tax breaks on anti-idling equipment and other initiatives that would help alleviate the cost of complying with CARB’s stringent standards. However, US tax breaks are not likely to benefit Canadian carriers operating into the state.


While California continues to lead the charge in cracking down on truck emissions, there are still some questions regarding enforcement of the latest rules.

“They have an enforcement problem just like everywhere else, and what is said is not necessarily what happens there,” pointed out Rob Penner, vice-president of operations with Bison Transport, which operates regularly in California and prides itself on having never received a citation for idling in company history. “California has a high demand for trucks so we believe their environmental policy will be light on enforcement for quite some time.”

Penner speculated that chronic offenders will be the most likely to be penalized under CARB’s stringent air quality rules. CARB’s Chen admitted enforcement from the DoT and the California Highway Patrol is voluntary.

“If they choose to enforce (the rules) they could – we don’t force them to,” he admitted, noting some training would be required before law enforcement agencies begin looking to penalize fleets under the rules. For now, it’s CARB inspectors that must try to enforce the rules.

The best way to avoid penalties is to ensure the emissions label is visible on all engines, Chen advised.

“Make it part of your preventive maintenance program to have people look at those labels and make sure they’re readable,” he suggested, noting a US$300 fine will be handed out for missing or illegible labels beginning in February.

For now, Canadian fleets such as Bison are poised to continue hauling into California despite the ever-tightening emissions standards.

“Our California strategy is not a lot different than our national fleet strategy,” Penner said. “We don’t idle as all our trucks are diesel APU-equipped. Our owner/operators are very conscious of California. Most of our West Coast fleet is based in Alberta and B.C. and run those lanes exclusively and they know their way around.”

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