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Deadline looms for new emissions regulations impacting trucking in California

Deadline looms for new emissions regulations impacting trucking in California
Deadline looms for new emissions regulations impacting trucking in California 02:52

OAKLAND -- Supply-chain problems continue to impact the shipping industry just as new emissions rules will eliminate tens of thousands of trucks from California roads.

From product shortages to rising prices, the supply chain problems are having a profound effect on the state's economy. But the situation is about to get a lot worse, as new emissions rules come into effect.

California trucking emission regulations
Trucks lined up at the Port of Oakland. CBS

Back in 2008, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law a new set of regulations for trucks and buses to reduce pollution. The final rule will go into effect this January 1st, banning diesel trucks with engines made before 2010.

"So this is one of the most significant mobile source regulations that California, as a state, has ever taken on air quality, in terms of protecting public health in our communities," said Sydney Vergis with the California Air Resources Board.

But, while CARB's Truck and Bus Regulation has been on the books for 14 years, its implementation couldn't come at a worse time. The pandemic has caused supply chain problems and a shortage of drivers. At the stroke of midnight on New Year's, an estimated 80,000 trucks will suddenly become illegal in California.

"They're going to knock out of the Port of Oakland with this rule. About 1,800 owner-operators who simply don't have the wherewithal, because of these economic conditions, to replace these trucks," said Joe Rajkovacz with the Western States Trucking Association.

That includes Daniel Cuellar of Pinole. He bought his used tractor trailer five years ago, but its engine missed compliance by one year. At the end of the year, he says his truck can be described in one word:

"Trash. You've got to sell it to another state or take it to another country," he said.

That desperation is causing the value of older trucks to plummet, while the price of newer compliant trucks is skyrocketing, with many costing more than when they were new.

"Of course, they all know you can't use it in California, so the price drops on those trucks," said Bill Aboudi, owner of AB Trucking in Oakland. "So it's good for them, bad for us."

Aboudi pointed to a line of ten trucks in his yard of which only three were compliant. Because of factory slowdowns and the computer chip shortage, anyone looking for a brand new truck can forget about it.

"You can't even order one. They won't accept an order," said Rajkovacz.  He said the state assumed that by just creating the mandate, truck manufacturers would catch up to the demand. But he said the pandemic has made that impossible, even as regulators hold fast to their deadline.

"We're not building a bridge to the future;  we're shotgunning this marriage. And it's not going to work," said Rajkovacz.

The ban applies to all trucks moving through the state, so there are dire predictions about what will happen to the supply chain as imported manufactured goods arrive at California ports for distribution across the country.  

"You can't take 80,000 trucks out of California's supply chain and not expect there to be major issues," Rajkovacz said.

The new emissions rule also includes buses. But, unlike trucks, the state has a grant program to help pay public transit agencies and school districts for the vehicle upgrades. 

Daniel Cuellar said he wants to remain a trucker. He enjoys driving and considers what he does to be important. But he admits he has thought about moving out of California to do it.

"When I hear all these laws, yes!  Why not?" he said. "I mean, like I tell my wife, 'Let's move to Nevada.' Or someplace."

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