What you need to know about California’s new emissions ban on older diesel trucks, tractors

A 15-year-old statewide program requiring trucking and agricultural companies to dump their old diesel-powered vehicles reached a new deadline Jan. 1, one which barred the firms from registering those trucks.

“This issue we’ve worked on extensively. We argued it’s a problem because of a lack of availability and high prices (of the heavy equipment),” Ryan Klobas, CEO of the 1,500-member Napa County Farm Bureau said. “And this new rule is difficult to comply with.”

Starting Jan. 1, diesel trucks with engine model years older than 2010 and weighing at least 14,000 pounds can’t be registered with the Department of Motor Vehicles, according to a California Air Resources Board rule. That agency cites health studies claiming diesel exhaust is responsible for “70% of the cancer risk from airborne toxics.”

CARB does offer a Truck Loan Assistance Program that provides funding. But even so, businesses with those vehicles say they face significant expense to buy new and get little if not no resale value in trying to offload their older models.

“These trucks are a huge investment. Our membership is in a grin-and-bear-it with a stiff upper lip. This is a giant hurdle,” said Katie Little, a policy advocate with the California Farm Bureau Federation, a Sacramento-based trade group with 30,000 members. “We feel the regulations hammer our membership left and right. I think our membership is hopeful there would be more revisions.”

With these big rigs costing up to $200,000, trucking companies are already facing issues like not enough drivers and ongoing supply chain glitches.

“It is what it is,” said Gregg Stumbaugh, corporate equipment director for Biagi Brothers Transportation and Warehousing, based in Napa.

The trucking company has spent at least $5 million on upgrading its fleet of trucks and equipment, receiving financial assistance from CARB’s Carl Moyer program.

Starting the year after state air quality adviser Carl Moyer died in 1997, the program has allocated $1 billion to date to recipients for heavy equipment from forklifts to big rigs. Going forward, the state has pledged to provide $60 million a year to fund the applications.

Biagi has swapped out more than 30 of its 270-vehicle fleet as the result of the rules. When it searched for new models to meet CARB compliance standards, it looked into electric vehicles, but the investment turned out to be cost-prohibitive when considering one charger can run about $150,000.

“We try to get them out at 600,000 miles anyway,” he said. “In 2008 (when the rules began), things hit the fan. But we’re in total compliance now.”

Other firms are not in the same position. Of the million big rigs on California roads, CARB estimates over half of those registered in the state (36,900) have not upgraded to newer models. And there are 192,400 big rigs registered out of state. Buses also fall under the rule. Fines can be imposed for firms that do not comply.

State officials point out that operators in some counties that applied by Jan. 31 could get an exemption to replace air filters rather than dump their diesels, but not all North Bay counties are included. Exemptions also do exist for vehicles driven less than 1,000 miles a year. The state offers a hot line – 866-6DIESEL – to answer questions.

“Nobody should be surprised by these rules. The regulations have been around for 15 years,” CARB spokesman David Clegern said.

Farmer: ‘I can’t justify buying all new’

In addition to the Carl Moyer program, the state will help pay to replace old diesel tractors under the FARMER program, though whether it’s funded by next year is uncertain given the state anticipates a budget shortfall come July. CARB officials are hopeful, but farm bureau advocates are not.

Bodega dairy farmer Josh Perucchi replaced two old tractors (1974 and 1978) under the FARMER and Carl Moyer programs.

“You gotta qualify. You have to prove you’ll use it so many hours a day,” he said.

Even though he received more than $270,000 under the programs, Perucchi invested about $100,000 of his own money in 2018 and 2022 model year tractors.

“I can’t justify buying all new,” he said.

The Northern Sonoma County Air Pollution Control District has also granted more than $363,000 (over half the cost of the four vehicles) to Tri Valley Vineyard Management in Cloverdale, according to district reports. The company declined to comment on the program. Redwood Empire Vineyard Management, which received $117,000 in grant funding to replace older vehicles, also declined to comment.

“There is a cost-effective element to these programs,” district spokesman Robert Bamford said.

He realizes that forking out thousands of dollars for heavy equipment may be a costly endeavor, but he billed the program as a lifeline.

“It’s less of a blow,” he said of the expensive trucks and tractors.

Susan Wood covers law, cannabis, production, tech, energy, transportation, agriculture as well as banking and finance. For 27 years, Susan has worked for a variety of publications including the North County Times, Tahoe Daily Tribune and Lake Tahoe News. Reach Wood at 530-545-8662 or susan.wood@busjrnl.com

Show Comment