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TRUCKING & TRANSPORTATION: Filter Fires: ACB’s Renewed Efforts to Protect the Safety of Drivers

The Alliance for California Business ("ACB") received a renewed attempt at attacking regulations propagated by the California Air Resources Board ("CARB") which pose a safety hazard to the California Trucking community. Specifically ACB initiated litigation aimed at the requirement that all trucks and buses manufactured prior to 2007 be retrofitted with special filters which have been linked to engine fires. The outcome of this litigation will hopefully shed light on the hazards of this regulation and the development of better, more effective regulations that protect the safety of drivers.

For almost three years the ACB, a non-profit boasting more than 400 members with the goal of protecting and promoting business in California, has condemned both the attorney general and the CARB for failing to investigate the truck fires which it attributes to Diesel Particular Filters ("DPF"). After having a prior lawsuit dismissed in July, the ACB initiated a new lawsuit (Alliance for California Business v. California State Transportation Agency, 80002491 [Sac. Super Ct., filed Nov. 22, 2016]) based on newly discovered information that was not available when the previous action was filed.

This controversy began in 2008 when CARB established the 'California Statewide Truck and Bus Rule,' which requires large diesel trucks and buses manufactured prior to 2007 to be retrofitted, repowered or replaced in order to reduce particulate matter emissions.

The purpose of DPF is to trap particulate matter from large diesel engines before they are expelled in the exhaust of a truck or other large diesel vehicle. As a result of what the ACB contends was a flawed study, CARB instituted environmental regulations requiring large diesel vehicles to utilize DPFs. Although DPFs are standard equipment on newer engines, they must now be installed into the engines of older vehicles.

The prior case by ACB challenged CARB's regulation requiring the installation of DPF on large tracks, arguing that the CARB withheld data about the safety of using the DPF. However, the previous case was dismissed this past summer based on the Court's finding that CARB's safety regulations were adequate.

Nevertheless, as part of the prior case, ACB was able to obtained thousands of documents from CARB which it is now using as the basis for a new lawsuit challenging CARBS' DPF requirement. According to the documents obtained by ACB, CARB's own studies and investigations show that the DPF are riddled with serious issues. Notably, these devises experience problems with high temperatures and clogging, even when they are used properly, which leads to fires that sensors cannot identify in time. Indeed, according to ACB's complaint, of the 15 buss fires and 50 truck fires that occurred between 2014 and 2016, the vast majority were caused by DPF devices.

Although, CARB denies the allegations (asserting instead that these fires are caused by poor maintenance) ACB's cause has been revived in its effort protect the interest of the California trucking industry. Perhaps most importantly, the investigation and subsequent results of the pending litigation will undoubtedly shed light on the adequacy of DFT regulations and may lead to better and more limited regulations that protect the safety of the trucking community.