Powered Vehicles: West Coast Influence

Feb. 1, 2009
Lift trucks may become subject to more stringent emissions regulations.

While environmentally friendly lift trucks are certainly not new, the push to clean up powered industrial vehicles has never been stronger. Controlling emissions from vehicles operating in industrial facilities is no longer just an occupational health and safety concern. It has quickly become the focus of environmental oversight.

California, well known for its strict environmental rulemaking, often sets precedents for the rest of the nation to follow. That’s why astute material handling professionals in every state and even in Canada keep an eye on West Coast regulators.

“California has always been a leadership state for environ-
mental issues,” says Patty Senecal, California government affairs representative for the International Warehouse Logistics Association (IWLA).

And, with energy inde-
pendence and environ-
mental issues ranking high on President Obama’s to-do list, the Golden State’s progressive policies may become models for other states.

Lift Truck Rules
The California Air Resources Board (CARB) requirements for powered vehicles cover large-spark ignition (LSI) engines fueled by gasoline, compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) rated at 25 horsepower or greater. These engines, CARB says, are used in lift trucks, industrial tow tractors, airport ground support equipment and sweepers/scrubbers.

According to CARB, these vehicles release unacceptable amounts of hydrocarbons (HC) and oxides of nitrogen (NOx) into the atmosphere. “Those four categories of equipment represent 94% of the total HC and NOx emissions from LSI equipment and are often found in fleets,” according to the regulatory authority, which adds that “these two pollutants combine, in the presence of sunlight, to form ozone, which is a significant contributor to California’s air-quality problems.”

In 2002, the U.S. EPA adopted a regulation for LSI engines that set a nationwide 3.0 g/bhp-hr (grams per brake horsepower-hour) HC+NOx emission standard beginning in 2004 and a more stringent 2.0 g/bhp-hr standard beginning in 2007. By Jan. 1, 2007, all U.S. lift truck manufacturers had to comply with new engine certification standards and test procedures.

CARB got tougher by amending those national regulations, requiring manufacturers to commit to
0.6 g/ bhp-hr by Jan. 1, 2010. So far, CARB has certified Hyster, Yale and Toyota lift truck engines as compliant with the 2010 standard.

However, the legislation isn’t just aimed at companies that make powered industrial vehicles. Individuals, businesses and government agencies that own, operate, lease or rent LSI enginepowered fleets in California are also subject to the rule, which establishes fleet average emission-level requirements for medium and large fleets that become more stringent with time.

Companies that operate four or more lift trucks must retrofit those vehicles or replace them with electric or cleaner LSI engines by the compliance deadline: April 1, 2009. Jan. 1 had been the initial deadline, but in December 2008, CARB extended it to April.

To help fleet owners and operators prepare for April compliance, the IWLA held two workshops, one in northern California and one in southern California, earlier this month in partnership with CARB. “IWLA provided this seminar to get our members informed and in compliance so they can avoid penalties from the state,” says Senecal. “Our members support advancing environmental sustainability. But, the cost of new equipment in an economic downturn is going to be very difficult. The seminar featured an expert from the state who helped us navigate what limited funds might be available for assisting with equipment upgrades.”

CARB has set the penalty for noncompliance at $500 per LSI piece of equipment per day after April 1. “Just one uncontrolled engine can emit as much HC and NOx in three eighthour shifts as a new car certified to California’s cleanest emission standard does over its entire lifetime,” according to CARB.

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