ACTON — Acton water haulers say a new state regulation that goes into effect next year will severely limit their ability to serve customers, if they can at all.
Beginning Jan. 1, owners of heavy-duty diesel vehicles whose trucks do not comply with the California Truck and Bus Regulation will be unable to register their vehicles with the Department of Motor Vehicles.
The regulation called for a particulate matter filter on diesel engines based on the vehicle’s model year. The filters can be used for up to eight years, but they had to be installed by Jan. 1, 2014.
By the end of the eighth year, the engine must be replaced with a 2010 or newer engine model. For example, trucks with an engine model year between 1996 to 1999 could have been modified for use with the PM filter through 2020, after which the engine must be replaced.
The rule requires the new engine by 2023.
The new law allowing vehicle registration holds was part of the “gas tax” bill that increased the price of gasoline by 12 cents in November 2017 and another 5.6 cents in July.
In 2020, the Department of Motor Vehicles will begin checking for compliance with the regulation in order for people to register their vehicles.
The DMV will use a schedule based on vehicle year and weight. The regulation applies to nearly all diesel-fueled trucks, buses and school buses with a gross vehicle weight rating greater than 14,000 pounds.
Acton’s three water haulers — Acton Water Co., Carson Water and Lunde Water — say the regulation could put them out of business.
“Our whole town of Acton and Agua Dulce are basically going to be out of water with no means to get water to you guys,” Amber Demyen, owner of Acton Water Co., said during Monday’s Acton Town Council meeting.
The three water-hauling companies have provided potable water to thousands of customers in the rural communities for decades.
“All of our companies have looked into financial assistance. They said there is no more,” Demyen said.
Combined, the three water-hauling companies have about 10 trucks on the road doing eight to 10 deliveries a day. They do anywhere from 500 to 700 deliveries a week.
“As of Jan. 1, we’re looking at 200 to 280 water deliveries a week,” Demyen said. “That’s a huge difference as to what we’re able to do now and what you guys are able to be supplied with.”
A new water hauling truck including the tank costs about $200,000.
“We should be able to service our own people. We shouldn’t have to seek other, outside sources where we really don’t know where their water’s coming from,” Demyen said.
Acton Water Co. operates seven days a week, sunup to sundown.
Demyen said her company barely makes a profit. So it was not possible to put money aside to purchase a new water truck.
“We are not trying to price gouge. We’re trying to give the water at the cheapest amount possible,” Demyen said.
In order to pay for a new water truck, Demyen said they would have to charge about $200 to $250 a load. Some families cannot afford that.
Debbie Dyer-Roberts, a former Acton resident who moved to Kentucky, said her grandfather started the original water-hauling company.
“These trucks can’t be retrofitted; they’re too old. They weren’t designed to take on the equipment these trucks need,” Dyer-Roberts said. ”Who can take what you’ve worked your whole life for away from you.”
A couple of Acton residents said if they are not able to get any hauled water for their homes, their property values will plummet.
“The profit margin on water hauling is very, very slim,” Ron Carson of Carson Water said Friday morning. “You’re doing good to make a living at it. You can interact with the community, so that’s why I do it.”
Carson’s family started hauling water in 1949. Come Jan. 1, Carson said all three of his company’s trucks will be noncompliant.
“We’re trying to get a new one going right now,” Carson said. “But the cost of a new truck with the tank and everything was $217,000, with a $3,000 a month payment.”
CARB adopted the California Truck and Bus Regulation in 2008. The regulation has been amended several times, and people granted more time to comply because the new policy coincided with the Great Recession.
Karen Caesar, a public information for the California Air Resources Board, provided a brief history on the regulation:
In 1998 the state’s scientific review panel declared diesel particulate matter a toxic air contaminate. That means there is an established link to cancer.
“The California Air Resources Board was required to come up with a plan to reduce diesel exposure, and thus reduce risk to the population,” Caesar said.
CARB came up with the Diesel Risk Reduction Plan in 2000. Since then, the state agency has regulated a wide variety of diesel sources such as cargo handling equipment at ships and railroads to smaller trucks and lawnmowers. The regulations required phased-in over time.
“No one is expected to go out and buy a very expensive piece of equipment tomorrow, or even next year. There’s always time to plan, but you have to plan. You can’t plead ignorance forever,” Caesar said, adding business owners, are obligated to keep up-to-date with regulations.
Caesar said people do not have to purchase a new truck. They can purchase a 2010 or newer engine,
“There are funds available,”
For details, Caesar urged people to visit CARB’s website, https://ww2.arb.ca.gov/, or call the hotline, 866-6-DIESEL.
Callers should be patient as the hotline is getting a lot of calls.
Caesar said it would not be fair to those businesses that did invest in fleet upgrades to comply with the new regulation to allow other businesses, even smaller ones, that did not plan.
The Truck and Bus Regulation includes an exemption for emergency vehicles such as fire trucks and vehicles that assist during recovery from natural disasters. However, it does not apply to vehicles carrying out day-to-day activities, Caesar said.
Bruce Tuter, Air Resources supervisor, said there is a loan program for small business to help them comply with the regulation.
“There is money that will help folks get loans,” Tuter said, adding that not all businesses will qualify.