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CARB Announces New Smog Testing Requirements

by Punjabi Trucking

Medium and heavy-duty trucks operating in California will now be subject to smog testing twice a year after a new announcement from the California Air Resources Board (CARB).

The new testing is set to begin in 2024 after a phase-in period. The program will eventually stretch to four inspections a year by 2026 or 2027.

The new regulation could be fulfilled simply by gathering data about a truck’s particulate and nitrous oxide (NOx) emissions from its onboard diagnostic systems. Beginning in 2013 all-new trucks came with the required technology as standard equipment.

“For telematics users, an onboard diagnostics inspection that draws emissions control performance data from the vehicle’s internal computer (allows) an inspection (to) be completed automatically without taking the vehicle out of operation,” CARB said.

The reporting and gathering of data will not be completely virtual. CARB will install a network of monitors in the San Joaquin Valley and along the South Coast to detect “high emitting trucks.”

In addition, the state will set up locations for random testing at border crossings, weigh stations, and other selected sites.  

Another element of the new regulations will now affect owner-operators who have only one truck. In the past, they were exempt from inspections to measure emissions from their truck’s smokestack. That exemption has now been eliminated under the new smog testing procedure.

Barriers to increased testing exist. One problem is that some diagnostic systems will need to be converted so that data is easily read by the state. Trucks will need a “scanning tool” for data to be read and these tools will need to be certified by CARB.

Considering these challenges, the American Trucking Associations and the California Trucking Association (CTA) have asked the state for a “soft enforcement period” including “an enhanced education effort” during the initial rollout of the requirement.

CARB responded that it is working on a variety of testing options, including options for fleets or owner-operators who may not want to use telematics. One solution could be the purchase of a handheld device that could fulfill the required tests. 

CTA also complained that the reality of four tests a year within the next five years could be problematic from a logistics standpoint. “We would argue that is way over-testing because CARB’s own data shows nine out of every 10 trucks are operating the way they are supposed to,” said Chris Shimoda, CTA’s vice president for government affairs.

Penalties for not complying with the new testing could result in a truck’s registration being revoked. But that goes only for trucks registered in the state. Out-of-state carriers who are out of compliance will be issued citations and possible referrals to the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

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