The San Bernardino County Superior Court has fined Foster Enterprises, an Ontario-based refrigerated transportation and cold storage business, $300,000 after a California Air Resources Board investigation revealed that the company failed to upgrade older diesel engines in its refrigerated trailer fleet as required to meet current emissions standards.

The case resulted in the first court-imposed fine issued under CARB's 2004 Transport Refrigeration Unit regulation. The company owners will pay $200,000 and the balance of the fine will be stayed, as long as they comply with the terms in the judgment handed down by the San Bernardino County Superior Court, and keep their fleet updated as required. The company is not connected to Foster Farms.

"All business owners should pay attention to this case," said CARB Enforcement Chief Jim Ryden. "This company actually had to pay twice - once to comply with the law, and then again as a penalty. Had the owners complied originally, they would have saved us and themselves significant time and money, and helped to keep a level playing field for their colleagues and competitors."

Although the diesel engines powering "reefer" units on trucks and trailers are relatively small, large numbers of these engines congregate at distribution centers, truck stops and other facilities, resulting in the potential for health risks to those that live and work nearby.

California's TRU regulation, adopted in 2004, gave fleet owners several years to plan for compliance before enforcement began. Fleet owners now need to gradually replace or retrofit their reefer engines, beginning with those dating from 2002 and earlier. Most companies have invested substantial resources to follow the rules.

Foster Enterprises, which is located near a school and residential area, continued to operate reefers powered by engines from the 1980s and 1990s. The majority of Foster's TRU fleet - 32 units - were out of compliance on the first day of 2010.

The CARB originally offered to settle the case for much less than the ultimate penalty. Because the company refused and continued to operate the high-polluting TRUs, CARB referred the matter to the Attorney General for prosecution.

Finally, months after the deadline and in order to avoid a trial, the business owners sold their non-compliant units and leased cleaner TRU trailers, about 18 months later than their competitors.