PARTNERS

By Vicky Boyd 

A NUMBER OF IMPORTANT California Air Resources Board deadlines covering older truck and bus diesel engines have come and gone, catching some San Joaquin Farm Bureau members off guard. And more deadlines are looming in the next few years.

“It’s not just me that’s getting hit,” said SJFB Second Vice President Jake Samuel. “I’ve talked to a few other people who are, too. I feel like it’s something that’s been put on the sidelines far too long.”

SJFB Executive Director Bruce Blodgett said he’s also received a number of phones callsfrom members asking about what they should do if they have older, out-of-compliance diesel trucks and face possible fines from CARB. Without replacing older engines with ones that are a 2010 or newer model year, they have few options other than to junk them or sell them to out-of-state buyers, he said.
“I wished I had a better answer than that,” Blodgett said. “But these are state regulations and our mmebers of the legislsture don’t seem to get it.”

The questions about older diesel engines stem from the air board’s Truck and Bus Regulation that took effect in 2008. The board’s goal is to reduce particulate matter and nitrogen oxide emissions, among other pollutants.

“When the regulations were adopted, there was a phased-in approach, so over time there are different deadlines for replacing engines,” said Noelle Cremers, California Farm Bureau senior policy advocate in Sacramento.

USDA objective report

 

 

 

Deadlines approaching

Beginning Jan. 1, 2020, the Department of Motor Vehicles will begin verifying with CARB that a diesel truck or bus is in compliance before re-registering it. By Jan. 1, 2023, nearly all diesel trucks and buses in the state except those driven fewer than 1,000 miles and with their mileage reported to CARB will be required to have 2010 or newer model-year engines.

Early on in the Truck and Bus Regulation, CARB offered two options for agricultural vehicles: the low-use exception and the agricultural vehicle extension. The deadline to sign up for these was Jan. 31, 2015, and producers cannot sign up retroactively.

As its name implies, the low-use exception covers trucks that are currently driven 1,000 or fewer miles annually. This includes water trucks used for dust control or vehicles used to spread manure.

The vehicle’s gross weight also must be more than 14,000 pounds, and pickup trucks less than 14,000 pounds gross vehicle weight are not subject to the regulation.

CFBF had sponsored legislation to maintain the low-use cap at 5,000 miles annually, Cremers said, but not enough legislators supported the proposal. A settlement stemming from a subsequent lawsuit hastened the cap decrease to 1,000 miles annually two years earlier than expected.

The Truck and Bus Regulation –Agricultural Vehicle Extension delays compliance for diesel agricultural vehicles that meet other CARB mileage requirements. It covers diesel trucks and buses with a gross vehicle weight of 14,000 pounds or more.

The annual threshold is 10,000 or fewer miles driven 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.

Qualifying vehicles also must be labelled 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.

With both of these, users must not exceed the annual mileage cap and must log onto CARB’s online reporting database, TRUCRS, by Jan. 31 of the following year to report annual mileage to remain in compliance.

 

State incentives available

Dave Phippen, an almond grower and partner in Travaille & Phippen in Manteca, said they had been running seven former tomato-hauling trucks with non-certified 1995 engines under the low-use ag exception. Seeing financial incentives from the state cap-and-trade program and the looming engine replacement deadline, he decided to update his fleet that haul double trailers with seven used 2015 trucks –all with Tier 4 engines. Tier 4 is the Environmental Protection Agency’s strictest diesel engine standard in terms of emissions.

Although Phippen had until 2023 to upgrade the vehicle engines, he said, “what we feared is the CARB would run out of the incentives somewhere down the line.”

The state has two programs to help fund replacement ag engines –the Carl Moyer and Funding Agricultural Replacement Measures for Emission Reductions, or FARMER. Both are administered by the local air pollution control districts. Depending on the air basin and the pollution rating of the new engine, they may fund up to 85% of the new vehicle’s purchase price.

But to take advantage of either, you must be in good standing by having logged your vehicle miles annually on TRUCRS, Cremers said. If you’ve received a letter from the state that your vehicle is out of compliance, you won’t be eligible for either of these programs.

“Anyone who has ag trucks in compliance should look at these incentives because the 2023 deadline will come up sooner than people expect,” she said.

Phippen said it made economic sense to buy used rather than new trucks since they only run them two to three months during almond harvest each year.

“I was pleased that (the CARB) recognised that it’s a good use of the funds to buy used trucks as well as new trucks,” said Phippen, also a SJFB board member. “We’re making a good decision. The dollars go a lot further buying used equipment than buying new equipment.

”One of the challenges with going the used route is you must identify the dealer with whom you will work and the trucks that will be purchased. The dealer then holds them until the air district funding is approved.

Phippen said they started the process shortly after the first of the year and only completed it in June.

“You need a dealer who’s going to help you,” he said.

 

Vehicle replacement helped by EPA grant

THE SAN JOAQUIN VALLEY Air Pollution Control Board recently accepted two U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grants totaling $10 million to help fund replacements of older diesel tractors and yard trucks.

San Joaquin County Supervisor Bob Elliott, who also sits on the Valley Air Board, said he was pleased with the grants considering how competitive the program was nationally.

“At least they’re awakening to the fact that we’re having special difficulty meeting some of these air standards,” he said.

The Valley Air Board submitted four proposals, of which two were funded. Altogether, the EPA had $40 million from which to disperse.

“So the San Joaquin Valley ended up getting 25% of the total grant money that was available,” Elliott said.

Of the $10 million the board received, $5 million will be for replacing yard trucks that have 2009 or older model-year engines with zero-emission battery electric yard trucks.

Also called yard dogs, yard goats, yard jockeys, yard tractors or utility tractor rigs, these vehicles are used to move trailers and containers short distances around warehouses, freight terminals or port facilities.

The Valley Air Board will use its existing truck replacement program guidelines to administer the grant. It is expected to help replace 26 vehicles, according to board estimates.

The other $5 million will go toward replacing agricultural tractors that have uncontrolled (Tier 0), Tier 1 or 2 engines with new tractors with Tier 4 engines. The old tractor must currently be in use, in operation and have a horse power rating of 25 or greater

The district will follow its existing agricultural tractor replacement program guidelines as well as provide a required match of about $6.5 million. 

Combined, they will allow funding of 60% of the cost of a new tractor, with participants required to pay 40%.