Impending deadline

Courtesy the Environmental Protection Agency

Update: A California Trucking Association representative tells me that out-of-state truckers are, indeed, subject to the new regulations if they are high-mileage drivers.

Come Jan. 1, small-fleet truck owners are expected to begin complying with rules to clean up their trucks and reduce harmful diesel pollution.

I had a brief phone conversation with a Stockton man who owns three trucks and would have to spend $18,000 retrofitting each truck to comply with the law.

His solution: He’ll take two of the three trucks out of service. The owner, who declined to give his name for fear of alientating potential customers, said he had been planning to hire two more drivers. That plan goes out the window, obviously, if they don’t have trucks to operate.

“I had done background work on two of them (potential drivers), and was ready to hire one, but I just don’t know what this is going to bring about,” he said. “We put everything on hold until we see how this all settles out.”

Here’s what’s unfair about the law, from this man’s perspective. His company is a small family operation that hauls for local farms, businesses and service stations. And yet, the big boys from out of state — the ones that put thousands of miles on our highways, coming from Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Nevada — are not subject to the law because their trucks aren’t registered here.

“They put more pollution into the air than my little truck does,” the small-business owner said.

It will be interesting to see how this all shakes out. Air regulators announced last month what they called “new, flexible compliance options” for truck owners who show they have made good-faith efforts to comply with the law. And millions of dollars have been offered by the local Valley Air Pollution Control District to not merely retrofit trucks, but replace them entirely.

Still, the Valley district has expressed concern that compliance rates with the law will be low for the roughly 20,000 small fleets in the Valley. The cost of the required retrofits in many cases exceeds the value of the trucks, and owners of small fleets (three trucks or less) don’t have as much financial backing as larger companies to pay for major improvements.

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    Alex Breitler

    A native of Benicia, he lives in Stockton with his wife, Ann (a Record copyeditor who fixes all of his mistakes). He has been writing mostly about natural resources since 2003, first in Redding and now in Stockton. He is on the lookout for a giant ... Read Full
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