Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Spinning wheels

News reporters are a cynical bunch.

Combine those reporters with trucking, and you can imagine Land Line’s newsroom has rolled its eyes at countless politicians, regulators and other power players who have spun reality into a campaign.

One recent release from the California Air Resources Board is a textbook example of spin.

This week, CARB sent out a news release touting its greenhouse gas emissions regulation for commercial diesel trucks. The rule, also known as CARB’s SmartWay rule, takes the EPA SmartWay voluntary program and makes portions of it mandatory for any truck driving through the state.

I’ll let the release speak for itself:

New rule for long haul-truckers expected to lower costs, improve fuel efficiency
Measure expected to eliminate one million metric tons of greenhouse gases by 2020

SACRAMENTO – Long-haul truckers in California are already on the road to saving money and reducing air pollution, thanks to a new regulation designed to improve fuel economy and lower greenhouse gas emissions.

The entire release is available here.

The rest of CARB’s announcement essentially tells truck owners that they are fortunate to be regulated by CARB. As such, CARB has found ways truckers can save money, by forcing them to use certain equipment, such as aerodynamic truck and trailer retrofits, and low-rolling resistance tires to improve fuel mileage.

As always, the devil is in the details. CARB’s bastardization of SmartWay – a voluntary program – isn’t logical.

SmartWay was successful because it was voluntary and helped truck owners identify technologies specific to their business, to help them.

CARB’s rule blankets most trucks that enter the state. Whether they’re regional or long-haul, the regulation requires truckers to put a portion of those technologies on their truck.

Some of those products may be beneficial to truck owners that will be complying with the rule.

The regulators, however, are missing the point.

Regulators don’t understand that some trucking operations can’t use CARB-approved low-rolling resistance tires. Others may work in ways that make the aerodynamic retrofit options difficult or impossible to use consistently.

Most importantly, the regulators don’t understand that small-business truckers know their business. Even many of the most careful trucking businesses have been hurt or shuttered during the economic collapse of the last two years.

If there are spare pennies to be saved by the mile and by the gallon, most truck owners are doing it.

If these small-business drivers were inclined to issue their own homespun press release, it might go something like this (with edits):

“Truckers to CARB: Your heart may be in the right place, but your regulations are [killing] providing new problem-solving opportunities to us.”

Truckers have been “helped” by CARB for decades now. Most recently, with efforts to “help” us clean the world’s air and save money, your agency has required us to begin saving and spending tens of thousands of dollars per truck.

We understand your rulemaking process takes a number of years, but your timing during our recent economic [crisis] “opportunity” couldn’t be worse.

Please consider obtaining input from actual working truckers and small trucking businesses before you [uneven the playing field for us] distribute grants to some large California businesses or develop any more rules to [strangle] help us.

Thanks again,

Small-business truckers