Proposed state law aimed at out-of-state trucks

By on February 11, 2019

SB-210 would make trucks from outside California pass a clean air test before they’re allowed to do business here.

As unusual as it may seem, California does not require “smog checks” for diesel trucks.

Unlike passenger vehicles, which must pass a stringent air quality check every two years to remain registered, heavy-duty trucks that operate in the state face no such requirement.

That might soon change.

State Sen. Connie M. Leyva, D-Chino, on Feb. 4 introduced Senate Bill 210, formally known as the Heavy  Duty Vehicle Inspection and Maintenance Program. 

And, unlike many environmental bills, this one might be endorsed – or at least not opposed – by the state’s business community.

“It makes absolutely no sense that cars have to pass a smog-check test but trucks do not, especially since trucks cause most of our pollution,” Leyva said after she introduced the legislation. “Trucks should be subject to the same treatment as cars. That’s just common sense.”

SB-210 will put into place emission-control and maintenance standards for any diesel truck that weighs 14,000 pounds or more. 

Each of those vehicles would have to undergo regular inspections to make certain they aren’t producing too much smoke and are using the proper emission-control equipment, according to the bill.

Those tests would be administered by the California Air Resources Board and would be the same as the ones administered by the board to passenger vehicles. The results would be transmitted to the Bureau of Automotive Repair.

SB-210 would require out-of-state trucks to meet the same environmental requirements as trucks registered in California. That will be even more important during the next four years because of the California Truck and Bus Regulation, the first phase of which began in January 2012.

The law, which gets rid of old diesel engines that generate more pollutants, requires diesel trucks and buses in California to be upgraded to reduce emissions.

By Jan. 1, 2023, nearly all California trucks and buses will be required to have at least a 2010 model year engine, or equivalent, or risk being fined or taken off the road.

That will leave California with more fuel-efficient trucks and buses, but it will have no impact on out-of-state trucks, which is one reason Leyva introduced SB-210.

“It will level the playing field and make it easier for our trucks to compete with trucks from outside the state,” Leyva said of her proposed legislation. “If they don’t pass the smog test they don’t get registered and they can’t do business in California.”

If it passes, out-of-state truck drivers will have no choice but to comply with SB-2010 because California, – and especially the Inland Empire with its massive logistics industry – is way too big of a market to avoid.

“We have more warehouses than anywhere else in the country,” Leyva said. “There’s no way anyone can avoid us. Companies have to do business here.”

Precisely how SB-210 will be implemented hasn’t been worked out. One possibility is the tests would be administered at truck weigh stations throughout the state, but ultimately how the tests are implemented will be up to the air resources board to decide.

The Los Angeles-based Coalition for Clean Air, a non-profit agency dedicated to bringing healthy air to the state, has given SB-210 an enthusiastic endorsement.

“Diesel exhaust is particularly nasty stuff, and it’s long past time for polluting trucks to face the kind of inspection requirements that car owners have,” said Bill Magavern, the coalition’s policy director, in the statement.

More than 12 million Californians regularly breathe air that does not meet federal clean-air standards, meaning the state has the dirtiest air in the country, according to the California office of the American Lung Association.

Approximately one million heavy-duty diesel trucks operate in California every year, and combined they produce about 60 percent of the nitrous oxide, and more than 80 percent of the diesel particulates produced annually  in the state, according to the air resources board.

Passing SB-210 would eliminate 93,000 tons of nitrous oxide between 2023 and 2031 – equal to removing 145,000 large diesel trucks off state roads – while negating the release of 1,600 tons of diesel particulate matter, the air resources board stated.

Leyva proposed legislation similar to SB-210 three years ago, but said she withdrew the bill before it was voted on so it could be rewritten and strengthened.

The Sacramento-based California Trucking Association, the largest trucking trade association in the state, did not return calls seeking comment for this story.

SB-210 has been endorsed by one unlikely source: Inland Empire economist John Husing, who has long railed about the state legislature passing too many regulations that make it difficult for businesses to prosper in California.

But Husing doesn’t include SB-210 in that category.

“As long as they don’t pull trucks off the road while they’re working I think it’s a good idea,” Husing said.