Movers say the new California Air Resources Board (CARB) regulations effective this Jan. 1 are not only expensive, but also driving them out of state.
Trucks (including moving trucks) older than 2007 and exceeding 26,000 pounds will either be required to have already installed a particulate matter filter at an average cost of between $10,000 and $20,000, or prove that they have signed a purchase agreement to do so by Jan. 1.
The charge may be higher than $20,000, depending on the age of the truck -- sometimes making it necessary to purchase a whole new vehicle.
The law further states that the only other alternative for a trucker is to sign a purchase contract for a replacement vehicle -- model year 2007 or newer -- that has the filter already installed.
After these steps, truck owners would have until July 1 to comply. Failure to do so may result in a fine of as much as $1,000-per-vehicle-per-month for every month the truck is out of compliance.
"It's simple. I'm not going to California anymore," said Wade McLaren, president of Portland, Ore.-based Bluebird Transfer & Storage. "A lot of moving companies will leave California if they haven't already."
Bluebird Transfer is an agent for Atlas Van Lines, which has 530 agents across the country.
Bill Lovejoy, president of San Diego-based Republic Moving & Storage, said the impact on incoming truck volume is going to be huge.
"I understand that something like 40 percent of household goods movers won't come to California because their vehicles don't comply," Lovejoy said. "It's going to result in a major shortage of trucks."
Aside from what is expected to become a major imbalance, Lovejoy said the new regulations hit a lot closer to home.
"CARB is killing us," said Lovejoy, adding that about $2 million has been spent retrofitting his trucks thus far with more work planned. "And I have six vehicles that need to be replaced before the end of the year."
Lovejoy, said while his business has been improving with a better housing market, issues with the retrofit have overshadowed everything else.
"These devices don't work and then they have to be replaced," Lovejoy said. "The science hasn't caught up. It's just a waste of money."
Mark Keiper, Sullivan Moving & Storage -- a United Van Lines agent -- executive vice president and general manager, said his past two years have been equally strong coming out of the slowdown, but he also has worries about changes at the beginning of the year.
Keiper said his greatest concern with the new law concerns moving trucks that might be inspected at weigh stations after crossing into California, and will be descended upon by CARB regulators before being hit with repeated fines.
Steve Weitekamp, president of the 550-member-firm California Moving & Storage Association, argues the fines unfairly penalize operators who can't afford the retrofit or the new trucks.
"These regulations are very onerous," Weitekamp said. "Most of the operators don't have new trucks."
Weitekamp argued the CARB regulations are particularly troubling for local movers who may put less than 30,000 miles on their trucks in any given year.
Steven DeBolt, vice president of San Diego Van & Storage (a Mayflower agent) who said his business had been slowly improving, also argued the CARB regulations could damage the moving industry.
"This is going to have a devastating effect on [truckers], but the state wants to get revenue from these fines," DeBolt said.
Paula Nix, Eckerts Moving & Storage office manager, said people buying houses again points to a brighter future for movers, CARB regulations can be a real expense if the upshot is that entirely new vehicles have to be purchased.
Not all movers seemed overly concerned. Linda Oakley, who serves as an agent for both Allied Van Lines and North American Van Lines, said she doesn't have a lot of sympathy for larger operators "given that they have had two years to prepare for this."
"This is what happens in California," Oakley said. "I do have sympathy for the smaller guys. This is definitely hard on them."