Deadline approaching for California’s SmartWay Rule

Hefty fines will be assessed to truckers and fleets across the United States, Canada and Mexico starting January 1 if they cross into California without SmartWay-verified aerodynamic devices—such as side skirts or boat tail fairings—that improve fuel economy 4 to 5 percent on their 53-foot or longer box and refrigerated trailers.


Reefer model years 2003-2009 have a delayed GHG compliance schedule.

Low-rolling-resistance tires can improve fuel efficiency even more, however SmartWay-verified tires cannot be used to help meet the 4 to 5 percent requirement, but will add an additional 3 percent improvement for both the tractor and trailer. SmartWay-verified tires won’t be required on 2010 and older box trailers until January 2017.

“The clock is ticking for compliance,” said Randy Rhondeau, air pollution specialist for California’s Air Resources Board (CARB). “Fleets and owner operators who travel into California must have aerodynamic devices, unless they registered with CARB on a phase-in option (which provides an alternate compliance schedule). “If you’re pulled over for non-compliance, the owner of the tractor/trailer can be cited $1,000 per day. The driver of the tractor/trailer is not off the hook either – that person can be fined $1,000 a day as well. Fines can increase to $10,000 per day for egregious, repeat offenders.”

Rhondeau said ignorance is not bliss. “Information has been out there for quite some time, so if someone comes in and pleads ignorance, it’s not going to hold water. If we catch violators, they’re getting a citation.”

According to Sean Graham, president of Freight Wing, makers of SmartWay-verified trailer side skirts and gap fairings, the CARB deadline is meaning a dash for compliance.

“We’re fielding a lot of calls asking about what’s needed; and we’re working with fleets and owner operators getting them set up with skirts,” Graham said. “One thing we recommend to all those needing trailer side skirts is to do your homework. There are several on the market, but don’t just go out and purchase any model so you’ll be compliant. Research what is best for your operation.

Graham said that all SmartWay-verified skirts will allow you to pass through California, “but you really need to look at skirts that will pass the test of time. Durability is the number one issue – you don’t want to learn the hard way and repurchase side skirts again in a year.”

While the CARB mandate might seem to be heavy-handed government at work, Graham said that in this case in particular, aerodynamic fairings on trailers have a very fast payback.

“We’ve worked with many large fleets which have documented real-world fuel savings of up to 4 percent with our skirts,” he said. “In testing, at sustained speeds, our SAE testing has shown up to a 7 percent improvement. If you do the math, our skirts can have a payback in as little as 35,000 miles of trailer utilization. It’s one of the fastest paybacks in the trucking industry.”

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