Righting the Ship – Part Two

In my last post, we looked at SB 44 (Skinner; D-Berkeley) and how it went from Job Killer status to a support position from CalChamber by including balance and looking at ways to encourage, rather than punish trucking fleets for early adoption of new technology.

SB 210 (Leyva; D-Chino), billed as “Clean Trucks, Clean Air,” still needs that balance. SB 210 proposes to create a smog-check program for diesel transportation vehicles. The bill has improved from its original form; for example, adding a two-year pilot program and sunsetting duplicative smoke check programs. However, problems that will introduce uncertainty, increases in costs, and delay transportation remain.

Putting the bill in context helps. Five years ago, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) began the process of prohibiting older commercial vehicles from operating in California, adopting the “Truck and Bus Rules.” These rules require all diesel commercial vehicles to use technology that reduces particulate matter (PM) and oxides of nitrogen (NOx) emissions to almost zero. Upgrades are required on a phased in-basis starting in 2015, with the final upgrades required in 2023. New commercial trucks have been required to meet CARB standards for both NOx and PM emissions since 2011. Reductions in PM and NOx, both ozone precursors, and the efficiencies that result from upgrades have the added benefit of also reducing greenhouse gas emissions. As I noted in my last post, diesel engine upgrades have made trucks 97 percent cleaner than those that existed in 1990. With this in mind, CalChamber and a coalition of business and agriculture groups have asked for two additional amendments.

Extend the Fix It Ticket Window to at Least 90 Days

 As currently drafted, SB 210 only gives truck operators 45 days to correct a violation. During testimony before the Senate Committee on Transportation, my colleagues at the California Farm Bureau and California Cattlemen’s Association explained their concerns with losing trucks during livestock transport season, which has a very tight window. Losing time on the road is of concern to all businesses, but even more so for perishable goods like food and crops. We continue to urge the author to adopt amendments that will provide more time for fixing indicator lights.

Remove Fee Authority Until a Program is Designed and Pilot Testing is Complete

Our second amendment request concerns the fee that will be charged for each truck. It seems wholly unnecessary for the legislature to provide CARB with fee authority for a program that is already in development and is being funded through CARB’s current budget. The bill requires a two-year pilot, and CARB has not yet decided how, where, or the mechanism by which it will test vehicles. Putting fee authority in a bill before any program is designed or reported to the Legislature makes it nearly impossible for parties to determine whether such a fee is fair, equitable, or burdens California businesses more than out-of-state companies. We requested that the author remove the fee authority from the bill, and instead require CARB to develop a program before the Legislature imposes a fee per truck on the industry—which, for larger fleets, could mean thousands and thousands of dollars added to transportation costs.

Good faith negotiations on SB 44 created a balance policy approach, and CalChamber now supports that bill. We are committed to achieve a similar balance on SB 210, but that will require all parties to agree to optimize climate goals while minimizing economic burdens to California’s trucking industry.

Leah Silverthorn, Policy Advocate