California Adopts Tough New Diesel Emissions Regs

December 15, 2008
Bad news for trucking companies in the Golden State: On Friday, California adopted the toughest diesel emissions regulations for trucks in the United States. Some fear that costs associated with meeting the new regulations will shutter multiple small trucking companies in California.

Detroit News cites "smoggy skies and rising asthma rates" as reason for the new regulations, and indeed, shipping is one industry where internal combustion engines are allowed to burn largely unregulated. For all of their legendary torque, untreated diesel exhaust from old-tech diesel engines is full of NOX and particulate matter, the first bad for the air, the second a pretty nasty carcinogen. New passenger car diesels like the Mercedes-Benz E320 BlueTEC, Audi A4 TDI, BMW 335d, and Volkswagen Jetta TDI, with their piezoelectric injectors, particulate traps, and selective catalytic reduction have largely cured the diesel's ills, but their technology is a costly remedy that could potentially sink the small trucking companies that will have to pay for them.

The new rules, voted into effect by CARB (California Air Resources Board), will take effect in 2011 and "speed up the replacement of thousands of polluting trucks and buses that typically stay on the road for decades," according to the Detroit News. Costs to meet the new regulations are estimated at $5.5 billion over 16 years. By 2014 all trucks must have particulate filters, and by 2023 no truck or bus in California may be older than 13 years unless equipped with NOX-reducing equipment.

The positive news? Californians will avoid an estimated $48 to $69 billion in health costs inflicted by breathing diesel fumes from truck engines.--Colin Mathews

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