North Bay trucking companies are spending millions of dollars on new trucks this year in order to meet tough air quality rules aimed at getting older, smoke-belching cabs off the road.
The state has provided grants to help pay for new, high-tech diesels that emit a 10th of the air pollution that the 2006 models produce. The latest grants provide up to $60,000 toward a big-rig that can easily cost $130,000 or more.
North Bay companies receiving grants include Doss Logistics, Expressway Transport, Toby's Trucking and Biagi Bros., plus beverage distributor Eagle Distributing and milk producer Clover Stornetta Farms.
One local truck dealership, Coast Counties Peterbilt in Windsor, estimates it sold about 40 tractor trucks in August as truckers made purchases in time to meet looming deadlines. All but two of those sales involved state grants, said Brian Farrell, a sales representative.
Selling five or six trucks would have been a good month for most of the past five years, he said. Elsewhere in the United States, big truck sales remain sluggish.
"There's absolutely nothing else going on in the rest of the country except California," Farrell said.
The state has required that by 2023 virtually all commercial diesel trucks will be using 2010 technology or better — emission systems able to drastically cut nitrogen oxides and toxic soot. The rules affect roughly a million trucks now in operation, including 200,000 big-rigs.
The grants are part of a $1 billion effort approved by state voters in 2006 to reduce air pollution and health risks related to freight transportation.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has told the Golden State that it must clean up the air over a number of communities by 2014 or face penalties regarding federal funding for highways and bridges. More than an eyesore, state officials said diesel emissions can cause cancer and the clean-up efforts can save lives.
"That's why California has to do more, because our air quality is generally worse than the rest of the country," said Tony Brasil, chief of the state Air Resources Board branch that oversees the big-rig rules.