City aims to smoke out dirty trucks |

City aims to smoke out dirty trucks

Exhaust comes from a truck on Main Street on Monday. The Aspen City Council is considering an ordinance that would allow Environmental Health officers to issue $500 fines to trucks that are out of compliance with the state's exhaust standards. The fines would be waived if the trucks were brought into compliance within 60 days of the citation being issued.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times |

Truckers could be slapped with $500 fines if the amount of exhaust spewed by their vehicles violates state regulations, but they won’t have to pay if they fix their trucks within 60 days.

That’s according to a new ordinance that City Council is considering, following a work session Monday that addressed the matter.

The city’s Environmental Health specialist, Jannette Whitcomb, made the case for giving her department the authority to issue tickets to drivers of heavy-duty diesel vehicles that don’t comply with the state’s 40 percent smoke-opacity standard.

Since 2010, truckers have been randomly checked at least once a year at a stop-point near the Highway 82 traffic circle near Aspen. Inspectors have included state and local law enforcement agencies, along with the city’s Environmental Health workers.

The most recent inspection was in June, Whitcomb said, adding that most of the pollution the vehicles generate is in the form of fine particulates.

Only a police officer can issue a ticket at those inspections, with the fine being $25 under state law.

Most trucks have passed the inspections, Whitcomb said. But of the ones that don’t, some aren’t deterred by the $25 fine. The typical offenders are trucks 20 years or older, she said. Newer ones have cleaner emissions, she said.

With an Aspen ordinance on the books, the city’s Environmental Health officers could cite the drivers. The substantially higher fines likely would motivate truckers to get their vehicles into compliance, Whitcomb said.

But the hefty fines aren’t intended to boost city coffers, she said. So long as the drivers of the vehicles in question get them in compliance within 60 days of the ticket’s issuance, the fine would be waived, and they wouldn’t have to appear in court.

“These independent operators, these small businessmen, and we’re posing this burden on them,” said Mayor Steve Skadron. “I want to make sure we’re meeting our goals the right way.”

Whitcomb said the 60-day grace period will give them ample time to get in compliance.

“What we’re asking them to do is maintain their vehicles,” she said. “This is something they should be doing as part of their business. The unique part is our local enforcement.”

During her presentation, Whitcomb noted that the city has implemented other measures to help ensure cleaner air. Among them are paid parking, fining motorists whose cars idle for more than five minutes, and fireplace restrictions, among others.

The ordinance will come before the City Council at a date to be determined for a first reading.

Whitcomb said her hope is to have the ordinance passed in time for the next inspection in 2017.

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