Beginning Jan. 1, 2011, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) ruling will require truck owners install diesel exhaust retrofits that capture pollutants before they are emitted in the air, with nearly all vehicles to be upgraded by 2014. Owners must also replace engines older than the 2010 model-year according to a staggered implementation schedule that extends from 2012-2022. 

This ruling applies even if a company is headquartered out of state; while in California, the company's diesel trucks must adhere to CARB mandates. 

Funding Helps Ease Compliance

While California offers $1 billion in funding to help business owners achieve compliance, companies should be prepared to invest a significant amount of money to bring a diesel fleet up to code. Just ask Ron Piombo, vice president and facilities manager for Marin Sanitary Service, a waste disposal and recycling firm based in San Rafael, Calif. 

Piombo, a veteran fleet manager of 38 years, got a head start on CARB compliance when California adopted the Waste Collection Rule in 2003, which applied standards similar to the latest CARB ruling to the waste collection industry. This rule required companies to implement a phased-in schedule from 2004 through 2010 to achieve particulate matter (PM) reductions of up to 85 percent. 

The process hasn't been cheap. Since 2004, Marin Sanitary Service, which operates approximately 150 trucks, has retrofitted approximately 100 trucks at a total cost of just over $250,000 to date. Marin has also accelerated its truck replacement cycle from an average of 15 years down to 8-9 years. 

Yet, while the cost to comply with the CARB ruling is steep, noncompliance is far more expensive, with penalties ranging up to $10,000 per violation, adding up to staggering fines depending on the number of fleet trucks that don't meet regulations. 

Achieving Compliance

So how do you navigate the latest CARB ruling to ensure your fleet's compliance and avoid costly penalties? Piombo offers these tips: 

If you're based in California or operate vehicles in the state, accept the fact that you must deal with the CARB ruling. "You can't bury your head in the sand and think it's not going to happen or we don't have to deal with this," advises Piombo. "It's here. Now you need to think through how you'll prepare for it." 

Seek guidance from your trade association. "We've been very fortunate to have our [California Refuse and Recycling Council] association, which has been in tune with this issue, cutting through a lot of the paperwork and putting out the information where we fleet managers can understand it a lot better," says Piombo. 

Create a plan and build a retrofit and truck replacement schedule. "Proper planning keeps you from having to deal with paying penalties," Piombo explains. "Attend meetings when you get the notices [from the state] and open your mind to it and know you must comply and start building a schedule and looking into the future. The State of California is really helpful by giving you a lot of the information as needed." 

Work with knowledgeable retrofit vendors. "How knowledgeable is the individual who wants to give you the service? That's something I look for in all my vendors," says Piombo. "Anybody can handle a product. You must have an individual who knows what he or she is talking about, understands the latest CARB regulations, is willing to work for you, and will be there when you call. When I didn't understand something or wasn't sure how my timing was, I would call my vendor, who was right on the ball and produced very well." 

Yet the ultimate responsibility for compliance lies on the fleet manager, cautions Piombo. "You can't depend on everybody 100 percent. You have to do your homework yourself. As fleet managers, we have a lot of other issues to deal with. You could probably spend 60-65 percent of your time just on [CARB compliance] some days and weeks. You have to determine and know that the people you are working with are taking you in the right direction." WT

At A Glance 

Tips to achieve compliance with CARB rulings include: 

  • Seek guidance from trade associations. 
  • Create a plan and build a retrofit and truck replacement schedule. 
  • Work with knowledgeable retrofit vendors.

Find out more about CARB Ruling

Looking for more detailed information on the latest CARB ruling? Here are some resources: 

Originally posted on Green Fleet Magazine