Clean Air

Posted Friday, May 01, 2020

An update to buyers within the state of California.

Gene Hackman summed it up best, in the film Crimson Tide, with the words, "I don't trust air I can't see".

As you've probably already noticed, RIGS TRUCK markets a lot of privately owned trucks from California. While we will continue to do this in the future, the reason for the large number of trucks for sale in California is due to the Golden State's diesel emissions regulations.

We all love clean air. None of us, even those who enjoy the occasional "blowing coal" believe that dirty air is a good idea for us or our families. For myself, having been raised on a small Midwestern farm, I have a deep appreciation for clean air, clean environment, proper care of the land, etc. That said, we all have differing opinions on how to achieve and maintain that and I am not going to get into mine or anyone else's opinions on how this should be done. My goal, is to provide a history and status for those of you that are buying trucks in California and are for some reason ill-informed about the current situation.

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) was originally established in 1967 as a result of the Mulford-Carrell Air Resources Act approved by then Governor Ronald Reagan. The goal was to "aggressively address the serious issue of air pollution in the state". (California Air Resources Board, "About")

What brought about this "statewide approach" was the recognition of smog back in the summer of 1943 which caused burning eyes, nausea, and lung problems. The visibility during that summer was reduced to just 3 blocks and the cause was blamed on a nearby Butadiene (used in the production of synthetic rubber) plant. However, after the plant was shut down, the smog was still there. So, in 1947, Los Angeles County developed the Air Pollution Control District, the first of its kind in the country. They focused their attention on the perceived visible culprits, "like smoke-belching power plants and oil refineries", but the smog stayed. In the early 50s, they identified the automobile as the culprit. Further research and development finally culminated in the first ever "tailpipe emissions standards in the nation", in 1966.

Fast forward to 2008. After many years of research and data gathering, CARB introduced new rules regarding diesel emissions. Those rules were adopted as regulation and became effective in 2010. The goal being, to have all diesel trucks operating within the state meet clean air standards by the year 2023.

Over the last 9 years of the 13 year implementation period, California has made numerous amendments to the timeline for compliance. The amendments were all related to the expense burden placed on businesses to modify or get rid of perfectly good running trucks in order to buy new ones which are more problematic, less powerful, prone to fires, and so on. Then came along a lawsuit, that the state lost in November of 2018, which removed most of those extensions and amendments. While the lawsuit had plenty of merit and standing, it came as a bit of a sucker punch to all the diesel truck owning companies in California.

As of today, the regulation is fairly clear and simple. See below.

Updated versions of the above overview can be found here as they become available from CARB.

The other day, I was chatting with a man on Facebook that wanted to help his son start his own towing business and was interested in buying an older used truck. Obviously, I couldn't sell it to him and I gave him a quick rundown of the regulation and a link to the overview from CARB. He was obviously disappointed and I wished him the best of luck in finding a compliant truck worthy of use in his price range, for starting a business.

To the folks shopping for trucks, that live in California. You need to stop considering purchasing anything older than a truck model year 2011. The engine in most commercial vehicles is a year older than the actual truck. This is by design and is practical for production. The regulation is very clear that they are interested in the model year of the engine not the model year of the truck. Furthermore, all the emissions control stuff on those later trucks is supposed to be intact - thus dropping a newer engine into an older truck without the after-treatment equipment on board will not satisfy the regulators inspecting your equipment.

You also need to consider purchasing even newer than 2011 trucks. This is because 2011 was early in the release of after-treatment systems designed by various truck and engine manufacturers. Therefor, problems were common. Later year models are still problematic, but less so than earlier. I may be reducing everyone's interest in some of the trucks I have advertised, but so be it, it's the truth and sometimes the truth hurts.

The issue with purchasing older trucks in California is no longer one of whether or not you'll get caught. The catching has been automated. You simply won't be able to register the truck. The California DMV is now charged with refusing registration of non-compliant trucks. Because we are working with private owners selling their trucks, this article pertains to people who buy a truck. And when you buy a truck, you have to register it. As some are just finding out, the registration of the previous owner does not transfer to the new owner.

Finally, for the most part, these are good trucks. The majority of trucks in California are rust free. Tow trucks that are used on California Highway Patrol rotation are some of the best maintained and mechanically sound trucks you'll find anywhere in the US. California has some of the highest standards for commercial vehicles in the country and the enforcement thereof is strong. So, California's loss is the rest of the country's gain.

That is until the regulation moves eastward...