Where There’s Smoke, There’s CARBCARB Citations on the Rise Across the State
To many in the transportation industry, CARB has become the four letter word of the regulatory regime here in California. While concerns over CARB’s unchecked power reside primarily on the republican side of the legislative isle, the air quality agency has been steadfast in the enforcement of their rules with little if any, effective pushback. CARB has enforcement authority over everything from lens cleaner to lawn mowers, anything that may potentially impact air quality.
The Health and Safety Code gives CARB the ability to issue fines of $10,000 per day if existing rules are violated. Although no one in the trucking industry has experienced a fine of that magnitude, the current minimum fine of $500 per month, per truck that is out of compliance can add up faster than green grass goes through a goose.With more and more folks needing to navigate the enforcement labyrinth as of late, word has begun to spread to most corners of the state that CARB is out in the field issuing citations. When a fleet is issued a citation, if it is correctable, like a missing Emission Compliance Label (ECL), the fleet can correct within a specified time period after paying the fine and that is the end of it. What the in-field citation may trigger however, is a fleet audit. For multiple truck fleets, one citation can bring down the house (See February 18, 2015 Post: Truck Fleet Faces $523,675 Fine for Non-Compliance with CARB Rules ).
Once an audit is initiated, a fleet should immediately start taking corrective action, or begin to build a case for why the standards could not be met. CARB will potentially request (among other things) hundreds of dispatch and registration records along with proof annual smoke testing and ECL compliance. It is up to the fleet to provide these records in a timely fashion or the fines will go up dramatically.
Once a fleet receives their violation schedule after the audit, CARB will outline what was violated and when. It is imperative that fleets look closely at the citations to make sure that they are accurate. Since CARB enforcement auditors are only human, there is always the potential for a mistake.
What CARB will present with the violation schedule is a “settlement agreement”. This agreement outlines what laws were broken and what CARB is willing to settle on in lieu of taking a fleet to court. Typically, the fines are reduced, but many other strings are attached, including annual reporting and participation in diesel technology education classes.
If a fleet doesn’t want to agree to the settlement, then CARB will take them to court and seek the maximum penalties. To say the least, the threat of “$10K per day” is enough to encourage settlement in most, if not all cases.
The most surprising statistic from CARB enforcement reports is that many fleets are still being issued tens of thousands of dollars in citations for failure to annually perform a simple $40 +/- smoke test. The PSIP, or Periodic Smoke Inspection Program, requires all fleets with two or more trucks based in California to perform annual testing on any engine over 4 years old. Fleets are required to maintain two years of test data. If data is missing, a fine of $500 per truck, per year is issued. For a 2 truck fleet this may only equal $2000, but considering that fine could have been avoided entirely with $160 in test charges, one is left to ponder if avoiding the potential inconvenience of a 10-20 minute test was worth it?
The PSIP is the highest grossing in-use diesel truck regulation on the books and it is probably the easiest rule to comply with. Fleets should be cautious when thinking that CARB rules may not apply or CARB enforcement will never catch them, it could end up costing more than a slight inconvenience.
If you need help with CARB compliance or enforcement, email Matt at firstname.lastname@example.org