California Adopts Tough Emissions Rules

By Loren Faulkner | September 28, 2010

As of this writing CARB off-road diesel regulations — passed unanimously by its 11-member board — are exactly one day old. Yesterday's decision in Sacramento (July 26) will mark perhaps the most significant change ever to affect the heavy construction industry in California. It is now a national issue, as well, as other states may line up to follow California's direction.

What will the passage of these rules mean for fleet owners of graders, dozers, backhoes, etc.? Here is a quote reported by the Associated Press from CARB's Sacramento meeting:

"Our industry has done nothing wrong," said Gordon Downs, owner of Downs Equipment Rental in Bakersfield, who estimated the rule would cost his company $2.1 million in the first year alone. "Why are we being punished by the very state we helped to build?"

Downs owns some 300 pieces of heavy equipment. Whether he will be one of the first businesses to close its doors, or significantly reduce its inventory and staff remains to be seen. However, it is known in the industry that manufacturers of heavy equipment can anticipate a loss of 20 percent to 40 percent of their customers in California, according to Bill Davis, executive vice president of Southern California Contractors' Association (SCCA).

Davis added, "SCCA is extremely disappointed in the Air Resources Board's failure to acknowledge the reality that the equipment needed to meet their regulations won't be available for another eight years.

"The next step is for the construction industry to let the dust settle; the final regs won't be completed for about a month because the board did make some minor changes at the meeting; and to re-draft the regulations so they can be used by other states.

"However, as the regs stand now, the penalties for not complying with the new rules are severe: $10,000 per day and if CARB determines non-compliance is a willful, unlawful failure, the fines go up to $40,000 per day," he said.

Davis sees the decision as a historic dividing line where, "... the heavy construction industry that had a very strong core of mid-sized companies is now going to have only very large and very small ones."