New CARB Rules Loom
In a year, older diesel-powered reefers — even those meeting federal emissions rules — will no longer be welcome in California.
December 2007, TruckingInfo.com - Feature
Do you run transport refrigeration equipment in California? Do you operate a terminal with 20 or more doors where reefer trucks make pickups and deliveries? Maybe you've heard about new emissions requirements coming in just about a year, on Dec. 31, 2008. They'll affect those terminals and every reefer, whether the trailer or truck body it's on is based in, goes into or merely passes through the Golden State. If you haven't heard, you'll need to know about the California Air Resources Board's upcoming regulations so you can start planning now to comply.
CARB's rules thus far have gone along with the federal Environmental Protection Agency's, which regulate reefer units via Tier limits (that primarily affect off-road equipment). Tier 2 is now in effect, and it's not as stringent as EPA's '07 limits for on-highway diesels. Starting in '08, Tier 4 Interim limits will reduce allowable particulate matter (PM, commonly called "soot") by 50 percent. In 2013, Tier 4 Final limits will cut PM by another 90 percent — but Tier 3 does not affect reefers.
In most of the country, you may legally continue to run today's and tomorrow's reefers indefinitely, as long as they meet the limits in effect when those reefers were built.
But not California. CARB wants all reefer units to comply with its upcoming limits. That means many existing reefers must be upgraded, shut down, or sent out of state. Basically, this affects reefers seven years or older.
Late this year, the requirements will affect units built in 2001; in '09, it'll affect '02-model units, and so on, up to 2013, when the most stringent Tier limits are due. Nothing more stringent is scheduled beyond 2013, but reefers then will be so clean that CARB and EPA will have trouble measuring the few pollutants that will still blow out their stacks.
One way to meet the CARB limits, according to Carrier Transicold, is fleet planning: Send only the newest refrigerated units into California or base them there, and use older ones elsewhere. This might work for some fleets, until a cross-country rig makes a delivery in, say, Reno, Nev., and could then go into Truckee, Calif., to pick up an eastbound load, but can't because its reefer is non-compliant. A majority of reefer trailers regularly go into California because its 37 million people consume so many products — temperature-sensitive or otherwise — and so much produce is grown and shipped from there, constituting convenient backhauls. So it'll be difficult trying to avoid sending in the "dirty" ones.
The second way is to buy new, compliant reefers to coincide with CARB's seven-year schedule. That way everything you have will be legal and you can run like you do now. But that might be too costly for many carriers. So the third way is to upgrade existing reefers. This can be done by replacing their engines with new cleaner-burning diesels, or fitting existing engines with diesel particulate filters, which Carrier Transicold and Thermo King are developing. The DPF route is less costly, and would meet the 2013 limits — called "ultra-low emissions" by CARB — so is a longer-term solution.
Either way will cost thousands of dollars per unit. Obviously, it wouldn't be a good idea to upgrade an older reefer that has only a few years of economical life remaining, unless you consider fines of many thousands of dollars per day that CARB promises to levy against anyone caught running an illegal reefer. New or retrofitted units must prominently display a sticker with California ARB numbers. Larcenous souls are sure to produce and sell counterfeit stickers, but can you imagine how irked an enforcement officer would be to find a phony sticker on a non-compliant unit, and how much the resulting ticket would cost? However, choose the legal retrofit route and you might be eligible for Carl Moyer grants. This money can offset some of the upgrade costs.
A fourth way to comply is to employ "alternative" technologies, such as reefers cooled by frozen CO 2 , which are sometimes used on containers. Cold-plate reefers that run locally would also meet the rules, and advances are being made on these. "Standby" electric power, which is an option on current reefers, is a means to comply while trailers are parked. Their electric motors run on 460/480-volt plug-in power supplied from the local grid. Cold-storage warehouses, distribution centers and other facilities will have to provide plug-ins under the CARB proposals.
CARB's upcoming rules must be approved by EPA, which is still considering them. The American Trucking Associations and other groups are urging EPA to block them. But, notes Ignacio Aguerrevere, Carrier's director of North American marketing and product development, EPA over the years has eventually gone along with every CARB proposal, and is likely to approve this one.
More information on all this is available from Carrier Transicold and Thermo King on their web sites, or at their dealers, or from ATA. It would be wise to get educated and plan accordingly, whether it's to alter your operations, buy new reefers or retrofit the ones you have — or get out of California and stay out.