Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Recipe for disaster

First Diana and Dennis Rodrigues tried adding a particulate filter to their 1997 reefer engine.

But it wasn’t CARB approved.

Then the Florida trucking family tried to purchase a $24,000 reefer engine to add to the existing trailer.

No bank would finance the repower.

Finally, the couple purchased a new $58,000 reefer trailer in late May, having been assured by CARB, California EPA and others that inspections at the state border would require all reefers to meet the new Transportation Refrigeration Unit standard by July 18.

“We knew we had to do something or we weren’t going to California,” Diana said.

Then on July 1, two weeks before the state was scheduled to begin enforcement, CARB announced it was delaying enforcement of the reefer reg until Dec. 31. CARB’s quick change contradicted several agency statements – including one in May – that it would not delay enforcement.

Even worse, the decision rendered expensive purchases made by truckers like the Rodrigues family imprudent or at least misinformed.

“I understand people want to make the world a better place through CARB,” Diana Rodrigues said. “We’re just a single little carrier and I was told ‘you do it or you will not come into the state anymore.’ ”

The couple was poised to pay off their 2006 Volvo VNL 670 in October, eliminating a $2,200 monthly budget drain and enabling Dennis to run locally. Because Dennis liked his regular runs hauling frozen juice into California and produce out of it in his reefer, the family decided to purchase the reefer so they could at least pay off the truck.

Had they known CARB would push the deadline back, they would not have purchased the reefer.

As it is, after refinancing they owe $2,200 a month on the truck and the reefer, which was purchased with a five-year loan.

For more than a year, the California Air Resources Board has been sounding the drum on its reefer rule. By July 18, 2009, CARB said then, it will enforce the restriction that requires upgrades to reefers eight years and older.

For instance, in 2011, 2003 model year reefers and older must meet the new standards.

Joe Rajkovacz, regulatory affairs specialist at OOIDA, told me that California’s agricultural industry is very powerful in California, and pushed for the delay.

National produce shipping drops dramatically in the fall, Rajkovacz told me.

“This is pure power politics on the part of the California agricultural industry,” Rajkovacz said. “The rule was delayed because they knew that implementing this rule at the height of the produce shipping season would have left them with a huge shortage of available equipment in the marketplace, affecting rates and leaving a lot of produce to rot.”

To make matters worse for the Rodrigues family, a microburst storm pushed their tractor and trailer over in late June, crushing the family’s pickup and parking their truck for at least three weeks.

“We’re picking up the trailer this afternoon,” Diana told me Wednesday morning. “After refinancing, we’re already going to be a whole truck payment behind.”

Diana says she can’t blame CARB for an act of God or nature bowling over her truck and crushing her personal vehicle.

She can blame them for causing the family to extend itself further into debt during uncertain economic times.

“For some people a $2,200 payment is a nothing payment,” she said. “But if you’re struggling – you’re a husband and wife with two kids – $2,200 is huge.”


  1. This is par for the course. Large companies with political power are controlling the trucking industry and drivers with the old "Slave and Master" manipulation, just modern day and increasingly more deceptive. As far as all the emissions compliance by the state of California the problems with excessive emissions from jet airplanes, private, commercial and military, plus trains and busses, and diesel powered off road machinery are being overlooked as they intend to make the trucking industry feed their greed.

  2. Once again, California has "screwed" someone else just trying to make a living. When everyone finally realizes it just isn't worth going into that state with a semi/trailer they will be much better off. Many of us pulled out of there years ago, but there are some that just haven't figured out they can do better somewhere else. All the rules and regs are ridiculous, especially when all the 4 and 6 wheelers greatly out number the "big" trucks and are not hassled nearly as much or at all. I've always said the border at Arizona should have a major distribution center where everyone in the rest of the country can unload and reload to go back east while leaving only CA trucks to haul in their precious state.

  3. Ever since I started driving truck (2000) I have always said: "The state of California is NO PLACE FOR truck drivers." For that matter, it is no place for any "outsider". California sees an out-of-state plate it immediatley sees MONEY. If they charged air planes, trains, and busses the same way they charge trucks, theyt would have NO visitors (tourists), no way of geting their produce to market, and NO AIRPORTS. Hence they would lose millions of tourist dollars, millions of produce income, etc.. Knowingh this they go after tyhe people that they know will pay the price: TRUCKERS AND TRUCKING COMPANIES. That I know of Swift has over 1,000 trucks in 2 different yards in the state. How much produce/product do you thing they move in and out of the state of California? What kind of a break do you think they get on all these "added" costs-compared to comp[anies that are EXTREMELY smaller? They don't care if they lose they smaller companies, they want to keep Swift, because Swift moves the most freight. Until California looses the tourist dollars, lose the "Swift" companies, until they are put in a position where they have to really SOLELY on their own recources, they will continue to do as they please. Lets put a 3 mile high concrete wall around the entire state and see how long it lasts. Until we are willing to do this we will have to learn to live with their GREED.

  4. There is no doubt you are correct! California is a VERY GREEDY states....they prey on the little people, the small companies with very little money to begin with; the ones that struggle just to make ends meet. What do they care, they sit in there high dollar offices with their high dollar pay checks and could care less. They don’t live from paycheck to paycheck like normal everyday hard working truckers. What do they care that someone such as this family had to dive into thousands of dollars and years in debt because of a bogus law that they decide not to enforce. Furthermore I am quite sure that they new that they were not going to enforce this law months before. They just decided to wait until the last minute to announce it; they just figured they would sucker everyone that they could into their web before they announced it. It’s defiantly no sweat off their backs if this family or any other families or companies loose thousands of dollars. I hate to hear of situations such as this it is really sad that people who are out there trying to make an honest living and work hard get knocked down like this (it is truly sad)!

  5. I don't know where all of you are from, but I live in CA with a big truck contracted to Swift. I like that arrangement.

    California did delay the implementation date of the new reefer rule because of the agricultural groups. so what? At least it was delayed, which gives most people a bit more time to do what they need to do.

    I am sorry that this family was caught in the middle like this, but I am sure that there are others similarly situated.

    BTW, Swift does not have that large a reefer fleet. You must be referring to CR England.


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