California is serious about air quality controls — but officials have struggled to bring the majority of heavy-duty trucks registered in the state into compliance with diesel emissions regulations put forth in the 2008 Truck and Bus Rule. Thanks to a new rule that began this year, however, that’s changing.

The Truck and Bus Rule gave trucking companies time to gradually meet the particulate matter filter requirements over several years — although older trucks were supposed to have new engines or be replaced by 2015. (Ultimately, almost all large trucks and buses will be required to have engines made in 2010 or later.) Despite these rules, compliance was only at about 70%. 

In the past, agents for the California Air Resources Board (CARB) went digging through the state’s Department of Motor Vehicle records on a case-by-case basis to catch scofflaws. Now, thanks to the new regulations, heavy vehicles that aren’t compliant will simply be denied registration.

So far, roughly 4,000 vehicles have been denied registration. It’s estimated that a total of 80,000 vehicles will probably find it difficult or impossible to renew their registration over the next year. That may hit trucking companies and independent owners quite hard. CARB has already seen a huge spike in calls to its diesel helpline, which has more than tripled in the month of January alone.

Changes in environmental compliance regulations can be problematic and disruptive for many California businesses. Fines for violations can run into the thousands. Some companies deliberately take their chances and adopt a “catch me” attitude — but others are simply unaware of their obligations or unable to comply as quickly as required. An experienced advocate can often help companies avoid problems and negotiate effective solutions to environmental compliance issues.