New emission regulations for transport refrigeration units on trucks that operate in California are causing headaches for owner-operators and others involved in transporting fresh produce.
Although the California Air Resources Board — which developed and enforces the regulations — is looking to amend the rules again to make things easier, it is also looking at stricter enforcement, possibly holding brokers, wholesalers and anyone who make transportation arrangements responsible for trucks that do not comply.
In the first six months of enforcement, the board inspected more than 4,000 units, wrote more than 700 citations for failure to comply with the in-use performance standard and more than 170 for California-based trucks that were not registered.
That amounts to more than $800,000 in penalties, as of early July. After two delays, January marked the first month trucks more than 7 years old were required to be retrofitted with diesel particulate filters or have TRU engines replaced to meet low-emission in-use performance standards.
Despite the efforts of the American Trucking Association, which appealed the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to give the board authority over the Transport Refrigeration Unit Airborne Toxic Control Measure, the board has full power to enforce the regulations. It is stopping trucks at border crossings, at weigh stations and even in shippers’ parking lots.
“Just this morning one of my drivers loading in Oxnard (board inspectors) had just come in and sealed the parking lot and checked every vehicle and every driver’s identity,” said Paul Piazza Sr., president of Minneapolis-based Minnesota Produce Inc. “California is using some harsh tactics to enforce this law, and drivers don’t appreciate the new tactics.”
California product makes up about 90% of the company’s business, Piazza said.
A roadside inspection for a registered vehicle generally takes less than five minutes, but an inspection that involves popping the hood and checking TRUs themselves can take half an hour, said Rod Hill, staff air pollution specialist for the board. Hill was the lead on the rule development for the TRU Airborn Toxic Control Measure, and leads the implementation of the regulation.
Hill said the board’s enforcement agents follow the harvest throughout California to choose its areas to monitor.
“Overall we’re seeing a trend of fewer truckers going to California, either because they don’t have the money to improve or they’ve decided to focus on buying out of areas that don’t have these emission standards,” Piazza said. “To us it just seems a little risky on their part to alienate transportation.”