Thursday, January 16, 2014

Diesel Starts with Die...?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has brought the health effects of goods movement to a national stage.

Although any facility or equipment operator doing business in California will see these discussions as old hat, those outside of the Golden State may be in for a rude awakening. Policy makers have begun to align the goals of health and community activists with national policy goals for the future of the goods movement system in the United States especially in around maritime port complexes in the US. This has led to the emergence of a renewed discussion around the consequences of our global marketplace on the future health of our country. Environmental, health and community activists see this as a national issue and have turned to California to inspire and encourage the control of Diesel emissions associated with the movement of goods in the United States.

One question that permeated the discussion over the adoption of in-use diesel regulations in California is when other states are going to follow suit. One reason that other states have not jumped on the diesel control bandwagon is the lack of regulatory authority. California is unique because several air districts in the state are in non-attainment of National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). The Clean Air Act (CAA) directs the EPA to set NAAQS for the entire country which all states are required to meet. 

This is a unique form of cooperative federalism where the feds set the standards and the states act on their own to achieve the standards. The feds have the final say in the approval or denial of these State Implementation Plans (SIPs), the basic roadmaps prepared by states to demonstrate how the NAAQS are going to be met for the target years. If a state fails to provide an enforceable SIP or cannot enforce the standards within an approved SIP, the federal government will step in and enforce or write the standards to achieve the NAAQS. 

Granted, that was a pretty sparse explanation of a very complicated process, but more or less, that is the gist. Other states do not have the regulatory muscle to pass rules similar to the on-road truck and bus rule in California, which is why for now, outside of some limited port restrictions in other states, California has gone it alone, and has so far been relatively successful in implementing the in-use standards on heavy duty truck operators. The rule has also been successful in sending non-compliant trucks out of state or out of country, effectively exporting emissions to other jurisdictions.
Nevertheless, the only real hope for a consistent, nationally enforceable in-use diesel engine standard ports or otherwise, is to have the feds write their own national truck rule with state implementation required under any proposed SIP. Every Heavy duty diesel truck in the US would need to adhere to the standards unless an exemption is requested. Compliance would be achieved through a mix of financial incentives such as guaranteed loans, grants and buy downs with enforcement of the standards through a mix of state agency reporting and inspections with possible DMV registration bans of particular model year engines. 

Anational truck regulation would be the only concept that would be nationally enforceable; effectively removing the states from the regulatory development process and limiting the possibility of multiple rules for multiple jurisdictions or individual challenges to localized emission reduction efforts.  The national rule would also cease the exporting of the old diesel engines to other parts of the country; trucks would either need to be scrapped or moved outside the country.

Time will tell how this all pans out, it is worth it to note however that environmental, community and health groups are rallying around the need to control emissions from the national goods movement system and federal regulators are listening. The low hanging fruit of emissions reductions has and will continue to be the Heavy Duty Trucking fleet. Regardless of how one feels about the health effects of Diesel Particulate Matter (DPM) exposure, all on-road, and even non-road diesel equipment operators need to understand that they will continue to be in the crosshairs for emissions reductions until the diesel pollutants associated with negative health effects from uncontrolled engines go the way of the Dodo bird. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Out of Touch or Out of Reach?

CARB On-Road Truck Rule Reporting Deadline Looms
Thousands of truck operators in California are on the verge of extinction. The reporting deadline for compliance with the 2014 requirements of the California Air Resources Board CARB) infamous on-road truck and bus rule is on January 31, 2014. It is no secret that many fleet operators waited until the very last minute to address the CARB compliance needs for 2014 (See Tuesday, July 16, 2013 “Expiring Exemptions Inching Ever Closer...Are You Ready?”). These fleet operators are now scrambling to get something done before CARB comes a knockin.

Although procrastination has helped many succeed and overcome insurmountable odds, for many others it has truly become the assassin of opportunity. If fleet operators took a series of steps prior to January 1, 2014, they could have received a “good faith” extension to July 1, 2014 before 2014 compliance must be demonstrated. If an operator did not take the steps outlined in the “good faith” extension, they must meet the rule deadlines as of January 1, 2014. It would seem that as of late, evidenced by those currently coming out of the wood work, many missed this deadline and are now facing immediate upgrade requirements.   - Click Here for Advisory

Operators across the state are slowly finding out that CARB means business; massive fines are still being issued for non-compliance with annual smoke testing requirements, a rule that has been on the books since the late 1990’s. Recently, as far as the on-road truck and bus rule is concerned, the CARB Enforcement Settlement website has become awash with settlements for truck and bus rule non-compliance going back to January 1, 2012. What adds insult to injuries inflicted from non-compliance is the fact that not only does a fleet operator need to pay the fines once they are issued, but they are given a short time-frame to upgrade their fleet to achieve full compliance. It becomes ad double whammy, all of which could have been avoided by being proactive and getting the fleet into compliance before the scheduled deadlines.  
Most of the time, that is easier said than done. With razor thin profit margins considered a good year for most in the trucking industry, little opportunity is afforded to fleets for purchasing new or minimally complaint equipment. Grant funding has all but dried up and even the statewide loan program is limiting reserve amounts for larger lenders, effectively removing a leg of the stool out from under those fleets that could have benefitted from a state sponsored loan.  Leave it to CARB to complicate the only viable program for fleets operating in California just for the sake of saving face.

Regardless of diminishing opportunities for assistance, Fleet Operators are still being faced with the stark decision, upgrade into compliance or face the regulatory gauntlet. There are resources that can help, but for the most part, fleets are left on their own to figure out what needs to be done to avoid fines. There are some limited educational opportunities available to fleets; anyone who is non-complaint and even those who think they are complaint should take all the help they can get. With complicated exemptions and expiring filing deadlines approaching fleets should welcome any and all outside direction.  One of these opportunities is right around the corner, on January 23, 2014 at 10am California Fleet Solutions will be hosting a FREE 2014 compliance webinar. Click Here to Register . This is a free event that will cover 2014 compliance requirements. It will be a live interactive meeting that will afford participants the opportunity to ask questions in real time. Don’t miss this opportunity; sign up now, space is limited. Get Compliant!