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Are California air pollution laws putting truckers out of business?

Trucks are driven near the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, the busiest port complex in the US, on September near Long Beach, California.
David McNew/Getty Images
Trucks are driven near the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, the busiest port complex in the US, on September near Lon Beach, California. The federal judge tentatively denied the largest trucking association, the American Trucking Association, from blocking the new anti-pollution measures for the ports set to take effect on October 1.

Trucking industry representatives head to Washington on Thursday to ask the EPA to ease state air quality regulations.

Trucking industry representatives are awaiting a judge’s decision in their case, which asks the U.S. EPA to ease state air quality regulations.

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) wants to cut the particulates flowing from the tailpipes of diesel trucks. Newer vehicles already do – they’re manufactured with diesel particulate filters. But what about the older trucks? Many have hundreds of thousands of miles on the dial but aren’t ready to quit just yet.

Joe Rajkovacz of the California Construction Trucking Association said that implementing the rule will cost the trucking industry over $10 billion, and the rule would mostly affect smaller businesses.

"This rule [will] basically take the equity away from most small businesses in California. The equity in their businesses is primarily their vehicle, and they would typically use that vehicle to trade up to another vehicle," he explained. "You're forcing people to either destroy perfectly good equipment. Or, if they sell it out-of-state, where is the alleged savings of health effects? [The trucks] will operate someplace else."

Rajkovacz added that the cost-benefit doesn't justify CARB's rule, and people can't afford to make financial commitments during California's recession.

"No, they can't raise the money from their operations in order to satisfy the mortgage on their new trucks. A Class A truck – to replace it – would cost anywhere between $150,000 and $180,000. That's going with a brand new truck. If you're talking about a car carrier, those start at a quarter million," he said.

Melissa Lin Perrella, senior attorney of the Southern California Air Project, said she questions the validity of $10 billion, but she acknowledges that the truck industry will need to spend money to comply.

"What are the true costs of this regulation, and what are the costs if we don't move forward?" she asked. "For decades now, those that breathe dirty air have gotten the short end of the stick, and I just feel that it's completely unacceptable to tell the kid with asthma or the mother with lung cancer who lives close to a busy roadway that their lives aren't worth replacing old, dirty trucks."

Should those trucks and bulldozers be required to come up to the new standard? The state board and environmental backers say, of course. But the truckers contend that the repairs are so costly, it will put many small owner-operators in debt, or out of business altogether.

Weigh In:

Should the EPA give them some leeway? Or given the heavy traffic to and from California’s ports and agricultural regions, are we better off with the cleaner air rules?


Joe Rajkovacz, Director of Governmental Affairs and Communication for California Construction Trucking Association

Melissa Lin Perrella, Senior Attorney, Southern California Air Project, Los Angeles, with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) since 2004

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