The Houston area’s container-hauling drayage truckers will be both targets and beneficiaries of a revolving fund to finance clean-truck upgrades or purchases of new rigs, under a $9 million stimulus grant from the Environmental Protection Agency.
The award comes out of a $300 million grant pool in the Recovery Act, to bolster the EPA’s National Clean Diesel Campaign.
The agency usually makes the clean diesel grants as payments for construction projects, or to help ports and cities pay to either retrofit or replace specific pieces of equipment. But the grant to the Houston-Galveston Area Council is one of three the EPA made this week to fund innovative loan programs, under which borrowers can spruce up older diesel trucks and other equipment, or buy new ones.
This one involves a partnership by H-GAC, the Houston Port Authority and the Environmental Defense Fund in what they said is a program “to tackle one of the largest and most difficult-to-address sources of pollution at any port: drayage trucks.”
Replacing older rigs can cost owners a lot of money. State officials already tap a grant program from the Federal Highway Administration to help buy replacements, and Texas has its own emissions reduction program grants that are funded from fees on new diesel equipment purchases.
But that can sometimes still leave owners to come up with tens of thousands of dollars to complete a new purchase, so the EPA-financed revolving loan pool can bridge that gap. The idea is to lend the money to help buy hundreds of new cargo trucks over several years, with loan repayments replenishing the fund enough to keep it going through 2013, a spokeswoman said.
“The program targets owners of the more than 3,000 trucks operating at the Port of Houston,” the regional groups said in a joint statement, “where most truckers are self-employed, owner-operators, or employees of one of the more than 150 private companies that are Port of Houston terminal operators.”
The loans can range from $5,000 to $100,000 and will carry an interest rate of at least 4 percent, according to information from H-GAC. Vehicle replacement loans may run five to seven years; loans to cover equipment upgrades for idle-reduction devices and other emission controls may last three to five years.
The partners aim to lend 25 percent of the money in the first year to cover 51 trucks, escalate to 103 more vehicles in year two and 51 again in the third year before the program reverts to a loan pool that is funded by loan repayments.
Along the way, backers expect to create or retain six jobs to run it, and another 207 for industry. They expect the equipment changes to save nearly 30,000 gallons of diesel fuel and thousands of tons of emissions.
The EPA announced $20 million worth of such revolving loan-fund grants. Besides the Houston award, they include $9 million for diesel truck upgrades and replacements in Oregon, and $2 million for the Louisville, Ky., area to spend on off-road diesel equipment such as for construction or agriculture.
Contact John D. Boyd at email@example.com.