California's Off-road Diesel Regulation Moves Forward

Idling limits are in effect now — and idling policy and annual reporting deadlines are fast approaching.

California’s in-use off-road diesel vehicle regulation (ORD) is moving forward, and fleet operators in the state need to take note. Written idling policies need to be in place by March 1 for medium and large fleets, and all fleets need to begin annual reporting this year. After March 1, Tier 0 vehicles may no longer be added to off-road fleets. Large fleets need to have compliance plans in place as soon as possible, as the deadline for performance requirements for large fleets is in 2010.

Describing how ORD will impact fleet managers, Tim Wix, of Averest Inc. and former GSE manager, doesn’t sugarcoat his words: “ORD will make the life of fleet managers very difficult. They are going to have to develop a strategy to meet the regulation and then sell it to upper management. This will be a difficult task in the current economic environment.

“They need to understand that there will be heavy fines for noncompliance and a strategy is required — now,” he says.

Effective under California law since June 15, 2008, ORD is aimed at reducing particulate matter (PM) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from the state’s estimated 180,000 off-road vehicles used in construction, mining, airport ground support and other industries. The term “off-road vehicles” does not include stationary or portable equipment. It only includes equipment with a diesel-fueled or alternative diesel-fueled off-road, self-propelled, compression ignition engine that is 25 horsepower or greater. The rule applies to any person, business or government agency that owns or operates diesel-powered equipment in California. Yet, knowing California often leads clean air regulation and other states follow, fleet managers outside California will want to pay close attention to ORD.

GSE that’s subject to regulation fits primarily in four categories: aircraft pushback tractors (and towbar lifts), cargo loaders, cargo tractors, and baggage tugs or tractors.

“That’s probably about 90 percent of the airport GSE that’s covered under the regulation,” says ARB air pollution specialist Beth White.

She points out other GSE may fall under other off-road regulations, such as Off-Road Large Spark Ignition (LSI) and portable equipment rules established by individual air districts. Fleet managers can look at off-road mobile source regulations by going to GSE fleets may also have equipment that falls under the On-Road Regulation that was approved by the ARB in December 2008.

Sometimes the definition of a fleet can be confusing. ARB defines a fleet in this case as off-road diesel vehicles in California that are under common ownership. ARB is working on a guidance document to help fleet owners understand that while subsidiaries may have different tax IDs, if they are still under common ownership, the parent company is considered the fleet owner, not the subsidiary. It is the fleet owners who will be held responsible for not complying with ORD.

Although the fleet managers often develop compliance plans and ensure the idling and reporting regulations are met, everyone from the fleet owner to the vehicle operators should understand what they need to do to comply with ORD.

Five-minute idling limitations became effective and enforceable the day ORD became effective. Some exceptions apply, such as idling to accomplish work for which the vehicle was designed and idling to bring a machine system to operating temperature (See

“Make sure the information filters down to the vehicle operators, since the fleet owner is the one who runs the risk of getting fined for noncompliance,” White says.

ARB can assess the owner, renter or lessee daily penalties for each idling vehicle found to be in violation. Each first-time violation of the idling requirements will be assessed a minimum civil penalty of $300. Subsequent penalties can be $1,000 to $10,000.

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