How California Is Seriously Cracking Down on Big Truck Emissions


When it comes to vehicle emissions in the United States, there is no regulatory agency that treats smog more strictly than the California Air Resources Board. In fact, CARB is responsible for setting emissions standards in more than a dozen countries, while also setting benchmarks for others to compare against. Passenger cars aren’t the only vehicles CARB intends to regulate, and soon heavy vehicles cruising California’s roads will be subject to more frequent, unannounced inspections.

California’s newest approach to combating harmful emissions, called the Heavy-Duty Inspection and Maintenance Program (HD I/M), is aimed at vehicles over 14,000 pounds gross vehicle weight. This can be trucks, buses, farm equipment or even RVs. In addition, the program covers any vehicle that exceeds the GVWR threshold, even if not registered in California.

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Last month, officials at the Port of Los Angeles lined up to showcase the new Portable Emissions Acquisition System (PEAQS) at an enforcement event. More than 1,200 trucks have been scanned and their drivers alerted to new smog check requirements being rolled out in the state. However, the news of the creation of the program is not exactly new. California first announced its intention to launch the program as early as 2021 with a go-live date of January 2023. August’s implementation event could mark the first time officials have tested its procedures and educated operators on the changes in a real-world scenario.

The PEAQS system is expected to be used in various areas of the state to screen for highly polluting vehicles. Should a vehicle be tagged, it must undergo additional emissions testing in order to be approved. If the truck fails the second test, the driver will be fined and ordered to undergo repairs.

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“The heavy-duty inspection and maintenance program will ensure that emission control equipment in heavy-duty trucks is doing its job of capturing and removing harmful emissions for the life of the vehicle. And if we find it’s not working properly, it’ll be fixed quickly,” CARB Chair Liane Randolph said in a statement. “This will save owners and operators on fuel costs and result in significant improvements in air quality and public health, particularly in communities bordering highways, ports and warehouses that suffer from persistent air pollution due to heavy traffic.”

California officials say only three percent of all vehicles on the state’s roads are actually affected by this new program. However, they are responsible for more than half of all harmful smog causes. The total cost of the program is $4 billion. California says that while expensive, it will ultimately save the state about $75 billion in health care benefits, prevent 7,500 air quality-related deaths and 6,000 hospital admissions by 2050.

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By mid-2023, California will initiate phase two of its HD-I/M program, which will require all heavy-duty trucks to be registered with CARB to receive a certificate of compliance, allowing them to drive within the state. Registered trucks will have to undergo HD-I/M testing twice a year by 2024, increasing testing to four times a year by 2027.

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