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CARB Compliance: How to Get (and Remain) Certified

If you are in the logistics industry and operate in California, you might have heard of the California Air Resources Board (CARB). But you might not be fully aware of CARB certification trucking requirements or how to get a CARB certificate of compliance. What is CARB compliance and who needs a CARB compliance certificate? Let’s take a look.

Driver interacting with controls.

What is a CARB compliance certificate?

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.

Fortunately, the requirements for CARB registration are simple. Currently, trucks weighing less than 26,000 pounds need an engine no older than 2007. By January 1, 2023, they must have a 2010 or newer engine. Trucks weighing more than 26,000 pounds need a particulate matter (PM) filter with a 2005 or newer engine now. Heavy trucks with a 2005 or 2006 engine must switch to a 2010 or later engine by January 1, 2022. Those with a 2007 to 2009 engine may wait to switch until January 1, 2023. Note that special additional regulations apply to refrigerated trucks.

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.

Why is CARB compliance more important than ever?

Now more than ever, carriers need to look into CARB certification and ensure that their fleets contain only CARB-compliant trucks. The supply chain is heavily tied up, with shipping containers backed up at the California ports. Those containers can’t move unless there are CARB approved trucks ready for them.

In addition, other states are now starting to adopt CARB standards that will go into effect over the next few years. To future-proof your fleet, it only makes sense to consider becoming CARB certified now.

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. You don’t have to be CARB compliant if you never operate within California’s borders. But if any of your trucks do venture into the state, they must follow the guidelines. For this reason, it makes sense for carriers to ensure that their entire fleet is CARB certified.

The back of a truck and trailr on a scenic highway with mountains and trees in the background.

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

Carriers are responsible for ensuring that their trucks meet all CARB certification requirements, including applying for CARB compliance certificates for each truck. They must dispatch only certified trucks to or from California. In addition, each driver should have the carrier’s full contact information, including the name and phone number of a designated contact person. The driver also needs contact information for the shipper, receiver, broker, or freight forwarder that hired the carrier for that run.

California-based carriers must register their certifications in the Air Resources Board Equipment Registration (ARBER) system. Carriers outside California aren’t required to, but registering can make it easier to prove compliance to brokers, shippers, and other interested parties.

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.

Loading dock.

Which vehicles are subject to the Truck and Bus Regulation?

The Truck and Bus Regulation covers all diesel-fueled vehicles weighing 14,000 pounds or more that are not already covered under another CARB provision. These vehicles must be brought into compliance no later than January 1, 2023. Note: Some compliance dates are sooner depending on the age and weight of the vehicle.

What are the consequences for CARB non-compliant vehicles?

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.

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. Fines are the typical consequence, and can be quite large for willful violations.

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 in order to enter the property.

Book CARB compliant loads.

Are you CARB compliant and ready to book high-paying California loads? The Truckstop.com Carrier Load Board offers a variety of tools to help you choose the right loads at top paying rates. You can also use the Book It Now feature to instantly book CARB compliant loads from trusted brokers. Contact us for a free demo.

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