CALEXICO — The Air Resources Board is stepping up enforcement of its diesel truck regulations, and some feel that small Mexican companies won’t survive the change.
More than 100 people attended an informational session on the issue in Calexico on Thursday.
The regulations are to ensure that only vehicles in compliance with state anti-pollution laws travel into the state.
All trucks moving cargo originating from or going to a regulated port or rail yard in California must be compliant drayage trucks. Violations being targeted at the border include “dray-off,” which happens when a compliant truck exchanges cargo with a non compliant truck.
Truckers can get varying stiff penalties for this, and motor carriers and transport companies that dispatch trucks can also face fines. The regulations were adopted in 2008 and implemented in 2011.
“Starting last fall, ARB staff has been regularly visiting the border towns of Otay Mesa and Calexico to educate truckers and business owners in English and Spanish about how to comply with our regulations and what happens when you don’t,” ARB Enforcement Chief Jim Ryden said.
ARB conducted 3,650 inspections on 1,938 trucks in Otay Mesa, Calexico and Tecate to check compliance on a variety of regulations last year and ended up issuing 261 citations.
While many companies in the U.S. and Mexico began the costly steps toward compliance years ago, there are already Mexicali drayage truck operators that aren’t meeting the compliance deadline for regulations, and enforcement is coming strong to the Calexico ports of entry, said Brad Poiriez, Air Pollution Control Officer for Imperial County.
If non-compliant, the trucks may be cited or not allowed to enter the U.S. Bill Polkinhorn owns Bill Polkinhorn Inc., a U.S. customhouse broker and foreign freight forwarder, as well as two Mexican transportation companies.
He said his company has had to purchase later-model trucks over the last two years to be in compliance and that impacted rates.
“We raised our rates drastically, actually much more than we would normally do. We would normally raise rates based on the consumer price index on an annual basis,” he said. “We had to institute a 35 percent rate increase to customers and so did others that want to stay in business.”
Polkinhorn said Mexican companies were contacted over the last year and communication improved, but “the Mexican companies were really not brought into the process until the whole process was halfway through.”
“Luckily because of the American company, we knew what was going on,” he explained. “For the Mexican companies, they were not included in the process from day one. It’s going to put a lot of them out of business. They got the information too late to get the financing.”
Polkinhorn believes circumvention of the regulations by companies still primarily using “dirty” trucks in San Diego and then switching out to “clean” trucks at ports caused the dray-off rule to be applied at the border.
ARB spokesperson Karen Caesar said there have been numerous workshops in Calexico as well as south of the border.
“We’ve done our best, I’m sure that it’s possible that some people aren’t satisfied and I understand that, but we’ve been able to reach out to many people and hopefully folks are understanding that they have to comply and they’ve gotten the message.”
She added that anyone “who needs our help are welcome to contact us.”
While there’s funding assistance through Proposition 1B Goods Movement Emission Reduction Program to retrofit trucks into compliance, it’s for companies that spend a certain percentage of time in the U.S.
The Mexican government will give loan assistance to those companies, but the high loan percentage rate makes that option not economically viable either.
It’s unclear how many companies this will affect in Mexico until some time has passed since the ramped-up inspection enforcement.
However, the change will benefit the Valley’s air quality in the long run which is heavily impacted by transporter emissions from Mexicali.
“Anytime we can reduce air emissions, it is going to benefit the quality of life for the residents here even if you’re not asthmatic or susceptible to respiratory issues,” Poiriez said.
He said the Air Pollution Control District regularly meets with colleagues in Mexico to assist and educate them on air emission issues and related technology.
There have been multiple visits from the state to the area, he said, and one local’s comment at a workshop even resulted in a regulation revision to be more flexible with phased-in enforcement.
As for the companies that may not survive the enforcement, Poiriez doesn’t believe an extension will be provided “for the mere fact because they have several other companies that adhered to the regulation.”
California still has the poorest air quality in the nation, and the Drayage Truck Regulation is one of many regulations passed to try to curb the problem, according to the ARB.
“Diesel exhaust contains many harmful gases and more than 40 other known cancer-causing compounds.
In 1998, California identified diesel particulate matter as a toxic air contaminant based on its potential to cause cancer, premature death and other health problems,” according to an ARB press release.
Visit www.arb.ca.gov/msprog/truckstop.truckstop.htm for information on how to comply, and a summary of requirements for diesel truck and equipment owners can be found at www.arb.ca.gov/msprog/onrdiesel/documents/multirule.pdf
Staff Writer Chelcey Adami can be reached at 760-337-3452 or cadami@ivpressonline.