Don't forget to check the tires! That reminder has long been aimed at drivers getting ready to go on long trips. But, under a proposed state regulation up for adoption this week, that message would soon apply to about 10,000 auto service shops in Los Angeles County.

The regulation being considered by the state Air Resources Board at its March 26 meeting in Costa Mesa would require an estimated 40,000 auto service and repair shops statewide to check the tire pressure of every vehicle they service and make sure the tires are properly inflated. If approved this week, the regulation would take effect Jan. 1.

The regulation is among measures proposed under the state's landmark 2006 greenhouse gas reduction law. Properly inflated tires increase fuel efficiency, which reduces dependence on imported oil and greenhouse gas emissions. It can also increase the life of tires, thereby reducing the number that must be disposed in landfills or recycling centers each year.

The regulation does not specify penalties for those auto service centers found not to comply; instead, it leaves penalties largely up to the discretion of local and state inspectors.

While the regulation is one of the most sweeping in terms of numbers of facilities impacted, it has met little resistance from industry. That's because most auto service and repair centers already have the required tire pressure gauges and air compressor pumps, and most check vehicle tire pressures as part of routine maintenance packages.

"Everyone will do this because it makes good sense," said Bob Constant, owner of the Forest Hill Auto Service in Pacific Grove near Monterey and a board member of the Automotive Service Council of California, which represents independent service centers.

Air Resources Board staff estimates that the regulation will cost between $4 and $5 per vehicle service, largely due to labor costs. Some service centers may pass on the cost to customers, but Constant said many will probably just chalk it up as a minor additional expense of doing business.

The Automobile Service Council had initial concerns about inflating damaged tires because pumping air into them could lead to blowouts.

"The liability for any accidents or injuries resulting from inflating damaged tires was a concern for us," said Glenn Davis, who owns an auto service center in Upland and is president of the Automobile Service Council.

The proposal was revised to address the issue. Repair shops will have to give customers written and verbal warnings that they did not inflate the tires and recommend replacement.

Waste Hauler Fined

In another Air Resources Board action, the agency announced last week that it had fined Pico Rivera waste hauler United Pacific Waste $22,500 for a series of emissions violations that occurred in 2007.

Agency inspectors found that United Pacific Waste failed to inspect its diesel trucks and also failed to install required emission reduction devices on its trucks.

As part of its settlement with the air regulators, the company agreed to train employees in truck inspection, provide documentation of inspections, require drivers to turn off engines instead of letting trucks idle, and install required emission reduction devices.

A spokeswoman for United Pacific Waste declined to comment on the fine and the settlement.

Tax Break

The state is now offering a $3,000 tax credit for each new hire. That tax credit, aimed at businesses with 20 or fewer employees, was part of the economic stimulus package in last month's state budget deal.

The tax break applies to any company hiring a full-time employee that is not already in a state enterprise zone or any other special tax credit zone. There's a $400 million statewide cap on the tax credit. But given the rapid pace of job cuts, reaching that cap won't be an issue this year and probably not for a couple of years after that.

"This is really meant for companies that are looking into the future and expecting eventually to hire more people," said Marc Burgat, vice president of government relations for CalChamber, formerly the California Chamber of Commerce. "What this is intended to do is to speed up those hires, to entice companies to hire this year instead of three or four years from now."

To find out more about the hiring tax credit and download the claim forms, use the state Franchise Tax Board's Web site, ftb.ca.gov, and scroll down to the heading New Jobs Tax Credit for Small Businesses.

Staff reporter Howard Fine can be reached at hfine@labusinessjournal.com or at (323) 549-5225, ext. 227.

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