New California environmental law puts thousands of truck registrations on hold

CARB Truck/Bus rule

Of the tens of thousands of notices issued by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) for trucks with expiring registrations this month, around 4,000 informed owners their vehicles were noncompliant with state air quality regulations and therefore could not be registered.

The registration holds reflected a law that took effect January 2020 requiring trucks to comply with the Truck & Bus Rule, the state’s key regulation governing diesel emissions, or be subject to DMV restrictions.

The rule’s phased-in requirements mandated heavy-duty commercial vehicles meet particulate matter filter requirements beginning Jan. 1, 2012. Older heavier trucks had to be replaced starting Jan. 1, 2015.

All told, about 420,000 heavy duty trucks are registered with the California DMV. Of those, about 80,000 are not compliant with current Truck & Bus Rule requirements, according to Bruce Tuter, manager of compliance assistance and outreach section for the California Air Resources Board (CARB).

As a result, thousands of new DMV registration holds are expected in February and each of the remaining months of 2020 as additional truck registrations expire. 

The DMV will continue compliance verification through 2023, when, because of the phased-in requirements, all trucks registered in California must be outfitted with a 2010 engine or the equivalent. Another 100,000 trucks will be impacted between 2021 and 2023, Tuter said.

Largely because of the new law, CARB  is seeing “a huge spike” in the number of calls to the agency’s diesel help line, according to Tuter.

As of Jan. 22, around 17,000 people had called the help line during the month of January, and thousands more had emailed. The average number of calls per month is around 5,000.

The DMV rule is part of California’s aggressive push on environmental regulations targeting transportation-related diesel emissions. California air quality ranks among the worst in the nation, largely driven by pollution from cars and trucks.