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New Laws of 2020 Series, Part 7: New Smog Check Requirement for Heavy-Duty Vehicles

By Vanessa Gonzales posted 12-09-2019 04:58 PM


By Guest Author: Zach Heinselman of Richards, Watson & Gershon 

On September 20, 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 210 authored by Senator Connie Leyva.[1] SB 210, popularly known as the “Clean Trucks, Clean Air” law, lays the groundwork for emissions inspection and maintenance requirements for heavy-duty diesel trucks. This bill aims to improve air quality by reducing pollution from big diesel trucks, a large source of harmful emissions.[2]

While heavy-duty vehicles are currently subject to smoke opacity testing[3], under current law they are not required to undergo smog checks. SB 210 imposes smog check responsibilities on heavy-duty truck owners and operators to ensure vehicle emission controls are maintained. SB 210 may impact public agencies, including special districts, that own and operate such vehicles.

Vehicles classified as “heavy-duty” are non-gasoline, on-road motor vehicles with a gross vehicle rating of more than 14,000 pounds. [4] These types of vehicles could include, but would not be limited to, delivery trucks, dump trucks, 18-wheel tractor trailers, tankers, and specialty vehicles like bucket and water trucks that are not otherwise exempted.

Program Phases

SB 210 directs the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to work with other state agencies, including the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), to develop and implement emissions inspection and maintenance requirements for heavy-duty diesel trucks. Phase one is a pilot program and phase two is the Heavy-Duty Vehicle Inspection and Maintenance Program (HDVIM Program).

Pilot Program: CARB, in consultation with the California  Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR), the Department of the California Highway Patrol (CHP), the DMV, the California Department of Transportation, and other interested state agencies and stakeholders, must implement a pilot program to develop and demonstrate technologies that show potential for bringing heavy-duty vehicles into an inspection and maintenance program.[5] Under the pilot program, CARB will investigate test procedures, hardware, and software to assess which testing methods will be the most cost-effective, enforceable, and least burdensome for compliant heavy-duty truck operators.

Before adopting and implementing the HDVIM Program, CARB must make its pilot program findings available online.  Additionally, CARB must give the Legislature a report on the agency’s findings related to cost-effective testing procedures, a comprehensive enforcement strategy, and how the program will harmonize with existing regulations.

HDVIM Program: Within two years after the completion of the pilot program, CARB—in consultation with the BAR and the DMV—must adopt and implement regulations for a HDVIM Program.[6] The HDVIM Program will apply to “nongasoline heavy-duty onroad motor vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 14,000 pounds.” Once the HDVIM Program is in place, the current smoke inspection program will be phased out.[7]

Under the HDVIM Program, heavy-duty diesel trucks will have to pass test procedures in order to register or operate in California. The test procedures will measure the effectiveness of the control of emissions of oxides of nitrogen and particulate matter. These procedures may use onboard diagnostics system data. Vehicle owners will be assessed a $30 compliance fee for testing procedures. CARB will issue a Compliance Certificate to vehicle owners for vehicles that meet program requirements to be used as proof of compliance.

Vehicle inspections under the HDVIM Program may occur at weigh stations or truck scales operated by the CHP, at other locations selected by CARB and CHP, or at private facilities where vehicles are serviced and maintained.

Within a year from the implementation of the HDVIM Program, vehicles must demonstrate compliance with the program before being registered with the DMV.[8]

Owners of vehicles violating the HDVIM Program may be issued citations and may be required to correct the deficiencies. Further, vehicles operating with an illuminated malfunction light displaying the engine symbol,[9] or operating in a manner resulting in the escape of excessive smoke, flame, gas, oil, or fuels residue[10], are prohibited and subject to a 45-day correctable violation.

Special Impacts for Public Agencies

Public agencies that own and operate heavy-duty diesel trucks should monitor CARB’s development of regulations and be prepared to have their vehicles tested to ensure compliance with these new requirements. Generally, this means ensuring that vehicles subject to SB 210 undergo the appropriate inspections. Drivers should be prepared to present Compliance Certificates upon request.

Vehicles owned by certain public agencies may be exempt from requirements of the HDVIM Program. SB 210 specifically exempts publicly owned authorized emergency vehicles such as emergency vehicles: (i) operated by a peace officer, (ii) used for fighting fires or responding to emergency fire calls, and (iii) used by an emergency medical technician-paramedic. But, these vehicles will be exempt only to the degree necessary to ensure the ability to respond to emergencies.[11]

The HDVIM Program also exempts zero-emission motor vehicles and new vehicles certified to meet the most stringent optional reduced emissions of oxides of nitrogen emission standard for four years from the time inspections begin under the program.[12] Thus, modernizing heavy-duty vehicle fleets may ease compliance requirements.

Further, if an agency can establish a history of compliance with the program requirements it may be eligible for a streamlined testing process, which may include transmitting emissions data electronically rather than having an annual physical test of the vehicle.[13]

While SB 210 will impose some added requirements on owners and operators of heavy-duty diesel vehicles, the Legislature has attempted to craft this legislation to ensure that compliance is affordable and that regulations are not duplicative. The Legislature has expressed its desire that the HDVIM Program be formulated in a collaborative manner, encouraging partnership and participation among various state agencies, industry, and other stakeholders.[14] Thus, public agencies with a particular interest in how heavy-duty diesel vehicle emissions will be regulated may look for opportunities to become involved in formulating the program and may consider participating in public comment opportunities for the proposed regulations as they are developed by CARB.


SB 210 establishes the framework for the creation of emissions inspection and maintenance requirements for heavy-duty diesel trucks. While specific regulations for the pilot program and the HDVIM Program are still to come, public agencies should consider how to ensure that their qualifying heavy-duty vehicles will comply with the new emissions inspection and maintenance requirements of this legislation.


This article was written by guest author Zach Heinselman of Richards, Watson & Gershon, as part of CSDA’s New Laws Series, where experts explain legislation passed in 2019 and how it will affect special districts moving forward. This article is provided for general information only and is not offered or intended as legal advice. Readers should seek the advice of an attorney when confronted with legal issues and attorneys should perform an independent evaluation of the issues raised in these materials.


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[1] SB 210 adds Chapter 5.5 (commencing with Section 44150) to Part 5 of Division 26 of the  Health and Safety Code, and amends Section 27153 of, and adds Sections 4000.17, 4156.5, 24019, 27158.1, and 27158.2 to, the Vehicle Code.

[2] Heavy-duty trucks operating in the state emitted nearly 60 percent of all oxides of nitrogen emissions and are the largest source of diesel particulate matter emissions, a carcinogenic and toxic air containment.

[3] Cal. Code Regs., tit. 13, § 2190-2194.

[4] Veh. Code, § 4000.17(a).

[5] Health & Saf. Code, § 44156.

[6] Health & Saf. Code, § 44152(a).

[7] Health & Saf. Code, § 44152(l).

[8] Veh. Code, § 4000.17.

[9] Veh. Code, § 24019.

[10] Veh. Code, § 27153.

[11] Health & Saf. Code, § 44152(a)(7)(B)-(D).

[12] Health & Saf. Code, § 44152(a)(7)(A)&(F).

[13] Health & Saf. Code, § 44152(a)(3).

[14] SB 210 § 1(b); Health & Saf. Code, § 44156.