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CARB Compliance: What It Means and How to Get Certified

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If you transport hauls within California, you’ve likely heard of the California Air Resources Board (CARB) regulations and the hefty fines involved for trucks not adhering to the rules. But you might not be fully aware of CARB certification trucking requirements or how to get a CARB certificate of compliance.

We break down who needs to be CARB compliance, how to obtain a CARB compliance certificate, and why every truck driver should be following these regulations.

What is CARB?

CARB was established in 1967 to reduce air pollution and protect public health in California. It primarily targeted the major metropolitan cities that experienced the worst air pollution in order to protect citizens most at risk and promote the evolution of emissions reduction technology across the state.

CARB evaluates engine emissions and is responsible for ensuring that vehicles operating in the state of California meet state emission standards. All heavy-duty trucks that transport goods to or from California’s ports or rail yards, as well as refrigerator trucks that operate anywhere in the state, must be CARB compliant.

A CARB non-compliant vehicle is not authorized to haul freight in the state of California, no matter where it is registered. Therefore, it is very important to maintain an active CARB registration on your entire fleet if you ever operate or plan to operate in the state.

What is the Difference Between CARB And EPA?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the national body that governs air pollution, including carbon emissions, for the entire United States. CARB is the board that governs air pollution, including emissions, within the state of California. CARB standards are generally stricter than EPA standards. If any of your trucks venture into the state of California, they must follow the CARB guidelines or face steep consequences, making it critical for your entire fleet to be CARB certified.

What are the CARB Compliance Requirements?

Everyone directly involved in trucking within the state of California is responsible for ensuring that their trucks meet CARB certification requirements. But their exact responsibilities vary. Here is a look at the CARB compliance requirements for motor carriers, truck drivers, brokers, and freight forwarders, and for California-based shippers and receivers.

Requirements for motor carriers

To operate in California, motor carriers must ensure all their trucks meet CARB standards and have individual compliance certificates. Only certified vehicles can be dispatched to or from the state.

Drivers must have full contact information for the motor carrier, if not an owner-operator, including a designated person’s name and phone number, and the contact details of whoever hired the carrier for the specific trip (shipper, receiver, broker, etc.).

California-based carriers must register their certifications in the Air Resources Board Equipment Registration (ARBER) system. Registration is optional for out-of-state carriers but registering can simplify compliance verification for everyone involved.

Requirements for truck drivers

Drivers are responsible for making sure they don’t operate a non-compliant vehicle within the state of California. If requested by a law enforcement officer, the driver must produce their license, the truck and trailer’s registration papers, and a fully completed bill of lading or freight bill, plus proof of CARB compliance.

Requirements for brokers and freight forwarders

Brokers and freight forwarders are only allowed to assign California routes to CARB-compliant carriers. They aren’t required to physically inspect the trucks, but will ask for proof of compliance. The easiest option is to request that the carrier register in the ARBER system and send a link to, or printout of, the certification page for each truck.

Brokers and freight forwarders must also provide full contact information, including the name and phone number of a designated contact person, to the carrier. This is not required if the broker or freight forwarder has nothing to do with arranging the load transport.

Requirements for California-based shippers

Although shippers based outside of California bear no responsibility for CARB compliance, those based within the state do. They must ensure that all trucks are CARB-compliant and require carriers or brokers to provide proof of compliance. If the shipper is directly involved (in other words, not through a broker), they must provide full contact information for both the shipper and the receiver, including a contact person at the shipping location who is familiar with the transportation arrangements.

Requirements for California-based receivers

Like shippers, receivers who are not based in California are not responsible for ensuring CARB compliance. Those who are based in California, though, must follow the same rules as California-based shippers, including requiring proof of compliance. A receiver who is directly involved in the shipment (not through a broker) must also provide full contact details for both the receiver and the shipper, including a designated contact person at the receiving end who knows the details of the shipping arrangements.

Truck and Bus Regulations

The Truck and Bus Regulation affects all diesel-fueled vehicles with a gross weight of 14,000 pounds or more that operate in California and are not already covered under another CARB provision.

As of January 1, 2023, all diesel-powered trucks must have an engine no older than a 2010 model. The only exceptions are vehicles that travel less than 1,000 miles per calendar year in California. Vehicles that have a PM filter and operate exclusively in designated NOx exempt areas of the state may be exempt from the engine model year requirement. Fleet owners must meet vehicle labeling and annual reporting requirements.

CARB Inspections and Consequences for Non-Compliant Vehicles

There are a variety of ways and checkpoints for CARB inspections in California. Currently, trucks must undergo emissions compliances testing twice a year and submit the results to CARB.

For California-registered vehicles, compliance deadlines are connected with the truck’s DMV registration. Test completion certification can be submitted up to 90 days prior to the expiration date.

For out-of-state vehicles, compliance deadlines are determined based on the last digit of the vehicle identification number (VIN).

Inspection checkpoints

Vehicles can be inspected at many different locations throughout California, including but not limited to:

  • Border crossings
  • Rail yards
  • Ports
  • Distribution stations
  • Agricultural inspection stations
  • Truck scales

Various police districts are also authorized to check for CARB compliance and report infractions.

Non-compliance penalties

If a non-compliant vehicle is discovered, the board may choose to cite any or all of:

  • Driver
  • Carrier
  • Broker or freight forwarder
  • California-based shipper
  • California-based receiver

How the violation is ultimately resolved depends on the facts of the case. In particular, the board will try to determine what processes each party had in place to try to verify compliance.

Petalites may include:

  • Fines range from $1,000 – $75,000 per day based on the severity of the violation.
  • A hold on the vehicle registration through the DMV, preventing legal operation

How Do You Get a CARB Certificate?

The easiest way to get a CARB certificate is online. Visit the CARB website and enter the relevant details for each truck. Be sure to click the box on the form requesting a sticker for the truck. Although stickers are not mandated by law, some facilities require them to enter the property.

To help you meet CARB compliance regulations, Truckstop has extended the status tracking experience for Premium RMIS customers. Now, the RMIS CARB module supports the new Transport Refrigeration Unit (TRU), Clean Truck Check (CTC), and Advanced Clean Fleet (ACF) regulations. The CARB profile allows carriers to store their CARB information and certificates in a global module—all in one convenient location for easy access. The CARB module is available to all brokers, allowing your most recent compliance certificate to be readily available for every broker. Your Customer Success Manager can enable the extended CARB module on your site.

Why CARB Certification Matters for Carriers

Motor carriers need to prioritize complying with CARB regulation standards and ensure that their fleets contain only CARB-compliant trucks if traveling in or through the state of California. It keeps your truck(s) legal and able to continue to take on hauls that keep your business moving.

And for those that don’t do business in California, stricter emission regulations are being implemented nationwide. CARB compliance is no longer just a California concern; it is a move you should consider to future-proof your fleet. By transitioning to CARB-compliant trucks, you can keep your business adaptable to changing compliance regulations across other states.

Book CARB compliant loads.

Are you CARB compliant and ready to book high-paying California loads? The Truckstop Carrier Load Board offers Load Alert Notifications so you can be first in line for loads you want, faster and easier than ever before. Use the Book It Now feature to instantly book CARB compliant loads from trusted brokers. Get a free demo today.

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