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August 12, 2015  |  Written by Michael E. Vergara

California Air Resources Board Regulation of Transport Refrigeration Units Proceeds

2015 Deadlines

On July 28, 2015, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) notified Transport Refrigeration Unit (TRU) and TRU generator set owners that that they should order new replacement models now to meet the December 31, 2015 compliance deadline for 2008 model year in-use performance standards.  (TRU – Act Soon!  Deadline for Reefer Compliance Orders Approaches, Posted:  28 Jul 2015 14:59:59.)  CARB warns that backlogs with manufacturers may cause delays, noting that owners who have not placed orders for compliant TRU replacements may miss the 2015 deadline.  CARB will grant four-month compliance extensions for model year 2008 owners who exercise due diligence in obtaining replacements, but this requires owners to have placed engine, unit, and vehicle orders no later than August 31, 2015.

TRUs refrigerate or heat perishable products transported in various containers, including semi-trailers, trucks, shipping containers, and rail cars.  TRUs are electrically driven and generally powered by relatively small, 9 to 36 horsepower, diesel internal combustion engines.  CARB has designated diesel particulate matter emitted by TRUs as a toxic air contaminant.  TRU engines frequently amass at distribution centers, truck stops, and other facilities, which CARB has determined results in potential health risks to those that live and work nearby.

CARB commenced regulating TRUs in 2004 and amended those regulations in 2010 and 2012.  Under the 2012 amendments, a replacement engine must meet the Ultra-Low-Emission TRU (ULETRU) standard.  If it does not, the replacement engine must be retrofitted by a Level 3 Verified Diesel Emissions Control Strategy (VDECS), replaced again with a cleaner engine, or otherwise brought into compliance with the ULETRU in-use standard by December 31 of the seventh year after the replacement engine’s model year or effective model year.  Thus, the 2008 model year must come into compliance by the end of 2015; the 2009 model year by the end of 2016; and so forth.  Compliance extension applications for model year 2008 owners are due by close of business December 31, 2015.  (CARB Regulatory Advisory:  TRU Advisory: 13-18.  Compliance with TRU Regulation by Repowering with New or Rebuilt Replacement Engines, Revised January 2015.)  The entire regulation is at 13 California Code of Regulations sections 24771.1 through 24771.21.

2020 and Beyond

On July 31, 2015 CARB released its draft “Technology Assessment:  Transport Refrigerators”  (August 2015) (“Assessment”), analyzing the current state of technologies and technologies projected for development over the next five to ten years and their potential to reduce fuel consumption, greenhouse gases (GHG), and criteria pollutant emissions (particulate matter and nitrogen oxides).  CARB’s long-term objective is to transform transport refrigeration to zero and near zero emissions technology to meet air quality and climate change goals:  (1) reduce GHG emissions 40 percent by 2030, 80 percent by 2050; and (2) reduce diesel particulate matter emissions 85 percent by 2020.

The Assessment analyzes the potential reductions of seven conventional and advanced technologies based on a “well-to-wheels GHG emission rate comparison.”  Conventional technologies are those that are diesel powered such as TRUs.  The advanced technologies are all non-diesel, electric, compressed and liquefied natural gas, and cryogenic, and are called transport refrigerators (TR).  The three technologies that demonstrated the greatest potential reductions and fuel savings well-to-wheels, coming closest to meeting CARB’s emission reduction goals, as compared to conventional technologies are:  (1) all-electric plug-in/battery/vehicle generator TR; (2) all-electric hydrogen fuel cell powered trailer TR; and (3) cryogenic TR.

The cryogenic TR is the only technology currently available and its capital costs are estimated to be slightly less than conventional TRUs.  All-electric hydrogen fuel cell powered TRs may be available in the next five years if demonstrations are funded, expedited, and successful.  All-electric plug-in/battery/vehicle generator TRs are in development:  trucks are in pilot scale demonstrations; and trailers are in early commercialization.  Capital costs vary, but are generally estimated to exceed those of conventional TRUs, with the exception of cryogenic truck TRs.  All-electric hydrogen fuel cell trailer TRs are the most expensive option.  All three technologies face challenges:  inadequate fuel infrastructure, costs, limited range, and durability and reliability.

Over the long-term, CARB staff recommends demonstration projects, monitoring, funding for commercialization, design, and development of advanced battery systems, especially improved energy efficiency, and new, more stringent off-road compression engine standards.  In the near time, staff recommends a phased in regulatory strategy limiting stationary operating time of fossil-fueled TRUs at certain locations.

For more information on CARB’s TRU regulations, please contact Michael Vergara at (916) 446 7979 or

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