PARTNERS

By Vicky Boyd

Lodi-area winegrape grower Diego Olagary received an unwelcome surprise from the California Air Resources Board recently concerning a 1987 truck he only uses to water dusty roads and nurse vineyard spray rigs.

The $3,000 notice of violation was on a diesel truck with "Special Equipment" SE license plates used exclusively in agriculture within a few miles of the farm and predominately off road.

Olagary’s truck falls under ARB’s low-use exception for agricultural vehicles that log low mileage annually. The other rule, known as the Bus and Truck Regulation – Agricultural Vehicle Extension, also has caused confusion among Farm Bureau members with diesel vehicles, said Noelle Cremers, California Farm Bureau senior policy advocate.

Olagary isn’t alone in receiving his notice, either, and she said ARB sent out several hundred violations recently. San Joaquin Farm Bureau Executive Director Bruce Blodgett said he also has heard of similar issues popping up more frequently in recent months.

As part of the process, ARB also notifies the Department of Motor Vehicles of the vehicles’ supposed non-compliance, Cremers said. DMV then has the authority to prevent re-registration of the vehicles.

Beginning in 2020, DMV will check with ARB whether the engine is in compliance before re-registering a vehicle.

"The low-use option is for anyone that had been driving less than 5,000 miles annually," Cremers said. "You just report your mileage annually to ARB, and you’re good."

Therein lies the rub for Olagary. He never logged onto ARB’s Truck Regulation Upload, Compliance and Reporting System – or TRUCRS – database to report his annual mileage by Jan. 31 for the previous year as required. To bring his truck into compliance, ARB told Olagary he would have to provide third-party proof – such as service records showing odometer readings at the time – that he drove less than 5,000 miles annually in 2016 and 2017 and less than 1,000 miles in 2018.

"We don’t have third-party mechanics – we do everything ourselves," said Olagary, also a SJFB board member. "We probably do full-on maintenance on (the truck) every two years because we maybe put 50 miles on it in two years."

What also frustrated him was trying to get more information from ARB about the violation. Olagary said no one would answer his questions on the phone, instead telling him all communications must be done by email. Even then, he said, the emails were not signed by a person and simply came from "dieselenforcement" at ARB.ca.gov.

"That’s why I think I’ll go through the hearing process, make a trip to Sacramento and spend half the day up there being heard," he said. "It’s a matter of principle – I’m going to have my day in court."

If the hearing goes against him, Olagary said he would consider taking the truck out of service and filing a "planned non-operation" with DMV.

He was still awaiting a reply from ARB about his hearing request when contacted for this article in mid-December.

Low-use agricultural extension
In Olagary’s case, his truck falls under the low-use agricultural extension that governs diesel vehicles used exclusively for agriculture. Among these are trucks owned by logging operations or farming businesses and certain other trucks owned by non-farm businesses that support agricultural operations, according to ARB. The vehicle’s gross weight also must be more than 14,000 pounds.

Trucks that haul produce from the field to a packinghouse, water trucks used to reduce on-farm dust and vehicles that spread manure fall under this definition. Pickup trucks are not subject to the regulation.

Qualifying vehicles also must be labeled with the letters "AG" printed 3 inches tall in white on a 5-by-8-inch black background permanently affixed to the left and right doors and visible at all times.

Annual vehicle use can’t exceed 5,000 miles in 2016 and 2017 and 1,000 miles in 2018. The decrease to 1,000 miles annually in 2018 was due to a successful lawsuit filed by the California Truckers Association.

Users need to report the previous year’s mileage on the TRUCRS database no later than Jan. 31 of the following year. As long as they are current in their reporting, they don’t need third-party odometer verification.

Truck and Bus Regulation – Agricultural Vehicle Extension
The Truck and Bus Regulation – Agricultural Vehicle Extension delays compliance requirements for diesel agricultural vehicles that meet other ARB mileage requirements. But the deadline to opt in and register for this extension has passed. Owners who did not register their diesel vehicles by Jan. 31, 2015, are not able to sign up retroactively.

"The key point is they had to sign up and register by 2015," Cremers said. "There were some folks who thought they just had to keep the mileage – they didn’t know they had to register."

As with the low-use extension, vehicle owners must report their mileage annually on the TRUCRS database by Jan. 31 of the following year to remain in this program.

The annual mileage threshold began at 25,000 and has ratcheted down since, Cremers said. For 2018, it stood at 10,000 miles annually.

Most trucks and buses owned by farming or log harvesting operations qualify if they’re used exclusively for growing or harvesting crops for profit or to deliver the harvested crop to a packer or processor.

The extension, which covers diesel trucks and buses with a gross vehicle weight of 14,000 pounds or more, expires if the vehicle exceeds the annual mileage cap or the reporting is kept not up to date.

Anyone with older ag vehicles not meeting either of these two compliance options will have to replace their diesel engines with 2010 or newer ones, Cremers said. Ultimately by 2023, everyone except those who qualify for the low-use extension will have to have 2010 or newer engines in their diesel vehicles.

Yet another ARB program, known as Funding Agricultural Replacement Measures for Emission Reductions or FARMER, is targeting other older diesel farm equipment.

It provides cost-share to replace tractors and farm equipment with Environmental Protection Agency Tier 0, 1 or 2 engines with machines that meet EPA Tier 3 or Tier 4 emission standards.

 

"SJFB members should be aware there will be a goal to replace 12,000 tractors in the San Joaquin Valley by 2024," Cremers said. "The goal is first incentive based for Tier 0, 1 and 2. If the goal is not met, at that point regulations will be adopted."