CARB LEVIES $532,875 FINE TO CLOSE OUT 2016
By Matt Schrap
Make no bones about it, they will find you. And when they find you, they will fine you…eventually. Now that CARB has audited some of the largest fleets operating in California, requesting smoke testing data, truck and bus compliance, contractor info, ECL proof, drayage compliance, TRU compliance, idling polices, maintenance practices, it is just a matter of time before they lock their sights onto the remaining fleets that have been flying under the radar and avoiding the rules for years.
CARB performs thousands of roadside inspections annually. In 2015, they executed close to 18,000 inspections on diesel trucks alone. While 129 "diesel investigations" for the truck and bus rule were settled in 2015, only 26 percent of all investigations across the diesel program suite resulted in a compliance finding. Although 26 percent is a low compliance rate, in reality, the number comes from a more efficient approach.
CARB has shifted their enforcement tactics away from "complaint and referral" to a "smart audit" approach. This new tactic is leading them toward the noncompliant carriers and away from the law-abiding folks who can't be bothered anyway since they are constantly on the road, turnin' and earnin' to pay for all the new equipment CARB scooched them into over the last five years.
Smart audit or otherwise, you don't have to be a genius to figure out that if you register your trucks with the DMV, then CARB has carte blanche access to that data for enforcement purposes. Despite what many would call the shortcomings of DMV customer service, you can bet dollars to diesel exhaust fluid that with the push of a button, all registration information for any particular carrier registered in California can be shuttled over to CARB headquarters lickety-split.
So, one has to wonder how a massive, nationwide leasing and rental company like Penske could drop the ball so badly going all the way back to 2013. While their fleet is in the thousands or tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands (231,000 according to their website), the only trucks that matter are the trucks that are operating in California. Regardless, CARB nailed the nearly 50-year-old company for numerous violations, including truck and bus rule and periodic smoke inspection (PSIP) compliance.
During an audit, CARB throws pretty much everything at the fleet to see what sticks. In Penske's case, it's likely that they didn't realize they had three MHD vehicles with pre-1995 engines actively registered as noncompliant for almost 24 months until CARB told them. Typically, each violation of the truck and bus rule is supposed to receive a $1,000 per-month, per-truck fine.
However, several factors come into play in how severe the citation is. Factors include but not exclusively:
"(1) The extent of harm to public health, safety and welfare caused by the violation.
(2) The nature and persistence of the violation, including the magnitude of the excess emissions.
(3) The compliance history of the defendent, including the frequency of past violations.
(4) The preventive efforts taken by the company, including the record of maintenance and any program to ensure compliance [...]
(6) The efforts to attain, or provide for, compliance.
(7) The cooperation of the defendent during the course of the investigation and any action taken by the defendent, including the nature, extent, and time of response of any action taken to mitigate the violation.
(8) For a person who owns a single retail service station, the size of the business."
Notice the very last consideration is the financial burden of the company. CARB needs these penalties to sting. In part, the goal is to punish the company in violation but to also act as a deterrent to any would-be scallywags who are skirting or thinking of skirting the rules (not to be confused with skirting the trailer).
Nevertheless, Penske is not alone. Hundreds of fleets (and hundreds more) have received citations or can expect something from the air police sooner than later. CARB's smart audit approach has already shown its effectiveness and the 2016 enforcement efforts should eclipse the 2015 statistics. They are citing the noncompliant carriers, punishing them with fines and releasing them back into the wild as tagged game. For those who have already spent the money for compliance, this is promising news. Better late than never, but eventually, nonetheless.
February 2017 - CMSA Communicator