Idling rigs targeted in effort to cut smog

first_imgCASTAIC – For long-hauler Bruce Weber, a proposed federal tax credit for devices providing heat and air-conditioning in big-rigs while the engine’s shut off just doesn’t seem enough to justify the hefty investment. “It doesn’t do any good,” Weber, 50, a driver from Kingman, Ariz., said while taking a break at this truck stop south of the Grapevine. “The tax break doesn’t offset it. You need to get a 100 percent write-off.” Truckers often leave their rigs idling all night to stay warm or keep cool in their cabs, spewing pollutants into the air and burning up precious fuel – along with precious profits. A federal bill proposed by U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, would allow trucking companies and drivers up to $3,500 in tax credits to install devices that allow these systems in big-rigs to work while the engine is off. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week But drivers seemed lukewarm about the benefit, even with sky-high fuel prices. The average for a gallon of diesel was about $3.40 on Friday, compared with $2.45 a year earlier. The devices require less fuel – about a half-gallon per hour compared to the 2-3 gallons used by idling engines. The problem, Weber said, is these devices often cost more than $7,000, so the tax credit and potential savings just wouldn’t cover it. “They should make it more of an incentive,” said Weber, who transports produce from Salinas throughout Southern California and has logged some 2 million miles over his 25-year career. “There are ways to build it as standard equipment.” Meantime, the California Air Resources Board will consider new guidelines to reduce idling emissions beginning 2008 when it meets this week, including a mandate for all in- and out-of-state trucks to install “cab-comfort” devices. A statement by the state air quality regulator said emissions from idling trucks pose a “significant” air quality problem. In 2010, on-road heavy-duty diesel trucks are estimated to account as much as 28 percent of nitrogen oxides and 9 percent of particulates from mobile sources statewide. Richard Harper, 40, of Jackson, Miss., hauls chickens out to California in exchange for a load of produce. It’s a three-day trip each way, and he has outfitted his rig’s cab with a sofa, television and DVD player – a makeshift bedroom upholstered in purple and chrome. “California’s got some bad rides,” he said. “I said to myself, ‘When I get some money, I’m going to pimp my truck.”‘ It’s all powered by a generator, though any fuel savings from not idling is negligible, Harper said. “It’s just technology,” he said. “The only thing is you can only use it when you’re stopping.” And rising fuel costs has made life on the road a lot tougher. Harper said the average independent cross-country driver earns about $4,500 per haul – with half going for fuel. But the recent run on diesel has added nearly a third to fuel, and when considered with insurance and truck maintenance costs, Harper said, “You’re really just doing it for free now.” “Within four, five years max, every owner-operator will have to work for a big operator.” Weber was an independent driver who parked his truck to work for a transport company when fuel prices began to spike in spring. He believes business could recover when freight rates catch up to the higher fuel price, or if they come down. “If we don’t get the trucks rolling down the highway, we don’t eat,” Weber said. “Everybody suffers. It’s in everybody’s benefit to keep these trucks moving again.” Eugene Tong, (661) 257-5253 eugene.tong@dailynews.com 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more