Big rig truck
March 15, 2023

UCR environmental engineers to referee California’s big rig truck emission regulation

Collaboration with the California Air Resource Board begins soon

Author: David Danelski
March 15, 2023

They won’t be wearing vivid black and white striped shirts, but they could.

University of California, Riverside, environmental engineers will soon serve as referees in California’s drive for big rig trucks to meet the state’s tailpipe emission standards.

The referee program will provide testing services for vehicles potentially operating with tampered emissions control systems and/or testability issues. Operating under the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) Heavy-Duty Inspection and Maintenance (HD I/M) regulation, the program will ensure vehicles are properly tested and those with broken emissions control systems are identified and repaired in a timely manner. 

Under an agreement with CARB, UCR’s College of Engineering Center for Environmental Research and Technology, or CE-CERT, will run the state referee program for heavy-duty trucks, including big rig tractor-trailers. Two testing locations are expected to open this spring, including a site in Riverside.

Within the next few years, UCR will be expanding its referee testing network throughout the state to

Tom Durbin
Tom Durbin

ensure statewide coverage. California State University Fresno will partner with UCR by doing tests in the San Joaquin Valley, said Tom Durbin, a research engineer with CE-CERT, who will oversee the referee program.

The referee program exemplifies a synergy between CARB and UCR following CARB’s 2021 opening of its Southern California headquarters on 19 acres provided by UCR off Iowa Avenue, just a short walk from the UCR campus.

“It's going to keep us on the leading edge of the process of getting trucks cleaner and cleaner,” Durbin said. “We are keeping regulations at the cutting edge of science and keeping science in the regulatory process.”

UCR will start by hiring three or four referee testers with engineering skills and will later expand the staff as needed as the program grows statewide, Durbin said. The program will give CE-CERT students hands-on experience.

“This program will last easily for 20 to 30 years because, even though truck manufacturers are transitioning over to electric vehicles, there still is going to be a legacy fleet of diesel trucks that will be on the road into the 2040s for sure,” Durbin said.    

Vehicles represent a major component of California’s fine particle pollution and compounds that react in the atmosphere under sunlight to form lung-searing ozone, a form of smog that peaks in the summer during hot, stagnant days.

Air pollution has been linked to numerous health effects, ranging from short-term headaches and nausea to lifelong stunted lung development in children and increased risks for cancer, heart attacks, other cardiovascular diseases, and simply pre-mature deaths.

CARB’s Heavy-Duty Inspection and Maintenance program is projected to significantly reduce air pollution from the heavy-duty vehicles, which are responsible for more than 50 percent of nitrogen oxides and fine particle diesel pollution from all mobile sources in the state. The program is expected to ultimately improve California’s air quality and public health and help California regions meet elusive state and federal health standards.


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