LOS ANGELES — There’s a statewide crackdown on California’s worst vehicular polluters.

What You Need To Know

  • Staffed by California Air Resources Board personnel, pop-up roadside monitoring events pull over heavy-duty trucks based on their emissions

  • This is part of the rollout of the Clean Truck Check Program, which will impact all big rigs in the state

  • “One high-emitting truck can emit as much as 60 clean trucks,” said Erin Shields, the manager of CARB’s Diesel Equipment Enforcement Section

  • Many drivers avoid penalties by addressing identified issues promptly

As part of this cleanup effort, there are referee testers. These are like detectives called in to investigate special cases involving big rigs and excessive pollution. It’s part of a bigger picture that will ultimately affect every single heavy-duty truck driving in the Golden State.

At a typical pop-up roadside monitoring and enforcement event, one camera is set up to read license plates and a nearby tube sucks up the air coming from the passing heavy-duty trucks. The air, which contains exhaust, is analyzed so that the system can pick out the worst polluters in just seconds, alerting Isaac Lino with a peak on a real-time graph. He then radios officers to pull over those identified semis.

Lino is an air resources engineer for the Enforcement Division of the California Air Resources Board, or CARB.

CARB technicians then do the in-depth emissions and engine tests. Drivers could then be cited, told to fix something, or even sent to a referee tester to make sure their vehicles are running as cleanly as possible without tampering.

The area chosen for the Oct. 31 checkpoint is known for poor air quality. That’s something Lino’s been dealing with since he was a kid.

“I grew up in Mexico City, so it was a community and a city that it had a lot of smog and emissions,” Lino said.

Pop-up roadside monitoring is part of the rollout of the Clean Truck Check Program. Eventually, this will require regular emissions testing for all trucks that drive in California, much like the smog check you get for your personal vehicle.

While they’re staked out on the street, CARB’s Diesel Equipment Enforcement Section Manager Erin Shields said they’re only going after the worst environmental offenders. This is because “one high-emitting truck can emit as much as 60 clean trucks and of course it’s very variable, but if something is out of repair or something has been disconnected or tampered, the emissions can be much, much, much higher,” Shields said.

Driver Roberto Flores got pulled over, but he was not fined nor cited.

“This is good for the environment, but at the same time it’s kind of harsh because sometimes the system’s giving us couple problems,” Flores said.

Emissions monitoring relies on the high-tech computers that come standard with newer vehicle models.

Often there’s no penalty as long as a driver quickly takes care of any issue.

You have to weigh the slowdown against the payout.

“We can help with the environmental justice, but ultimately it’s just to clean the air,” Lino said.

On Oct. 31, more than 300 trucks were screened; four citations were issued.