Ports from Oakland, Calif., to New York are adopting clean-trucks programs that will require independent owner-operators who in many cases make $35,000 a year or less to shell out more than $50,000 for new trucks.
Put another way, drivers are being asked to help clean the air by emptying their pockets — and many aren’t ready to do it. Some truckers in Northern California are asking the California Air Resources Board, whose drayage truck program forms the basis of the Port of Oakland’s clean-trucks program, to extend the Jan 1, 2014, deadline for full compliance that calls for a ban on all trucks built before 2007.
As the landmark Los Angeles-Long Beach clean-trucks program demonstrates, banning old trucks dramatically reduces harmful diesel emissions. But as more ports look to mirror that success, they’re hearing from truckers about the high costs of complying with rules that progressively tighten the ban on trucks built between 2003 and 2006.
Those vehicles comprise the majority of trucks operating at the ports, and they fall short of the mandated standards for 2007 and newer trucks.
CARB calculates there are about 6,100 Class 8 drayage trucks in Northern California, but only 1,650 meet federal Environmental Protection Agency standards for 2007 engines. That means truckers will have to replace about 4,450 vehicles by 2014.
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Many truckers are operating vehicles that cost a fraction of a new truck, which can cost $75,000 or more, and they can’t afford under current freight rates to invest in a new vehicle, said Ron Light, executive director of the West State Alliance. The alliance represents independent truckers serving the Port of Oakland.
Motor carriers and owner-operators were led to believe the cheaper solution of retrofitting trucks with diesel particulate filters would be available, but CARB has yet to certify a retrofit that will bring a 2006 or older truck up to 2007 standards, said Bill Aboudi, president of AB Trucking in Northern California.
Harbor truckers in New York-New Jersey face a 2017 deadline for purchasing 2007 or newer trucks. Steve Coleman, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, said 4,189 trucks call frequently in the harbor, and 3,948 of those are 2006 or older.
Truckers have access to EPA grants that cover 25 percent of the purchase price of a new truck, and $6 million of that money is still available, Coleman said. Another round of EPA funding would likely be necessary before 2017, however, if all truckers requiring assistance are to be helped.
Even with grant money, 75 percent of the cost of a new truck would have to be covered by low-interest loans or higher drayage rates. Jeff Bader, CEO of New Jersey port trucker Golden Carriers, said owner-operators account for 70 percent of the trucks in New York-New Jersey harbor. “They will not invest $70,000 to $80,000 in a new truck,” Bader said.
The Port of Seattle will look at another round of assistance for truckers as it prepares for the second phase of its clean-trucks program. Seattle provided a $5,000 grant to each trucker that scrapped its pre-1994 vehicle by Jan. 1, 2010, and 276 old trucks were eliminated. The program went smoothly. “It was a non-event in terms of disruptions,” said Linda Styrk, seaport division manager.
The next deadline is Jan. 1, 2015, when all pre-2007 trucks will be banned from the port. Seattle will look at options for assisting truckers in the purchase of a new vehicle or a used 2007 model, Styrk said.
Based on the struggles some ports are experiencing, the achievements of the Los Angeles and Long Beach clean-trucks programs are impressive. More than 9,000 compliant trucks have entered port service since Oct. 1, 2008. By the end of this year, the entire fleet of about 10,000 trucks will operate on clean-diesel or liquefied natural gas.
“The number of new trucks in Southern California is phenomenal,” said Dick Coyle, president of Devine Intermodal in West Sacramento. Coyle said the majority of the trucks were financed privately.
Slightly more than one-third of the compliant trucks in Southern California received some money from either the ports or CARB, Port of Los Angeles spokesman Phillip Sanfield said. Subsidies were especially popular for the 726 LNG trucks that were purchased, according to Art Wong, Port of Long Beach spokesman. Those trucks cost twice as much as a clean-diesel truck.
Companies that have invested in new trucks in Northern California do not want the deadlines to be extended. “We’ve known about the CARB rules for years,” said Cory Peters, president of CTP Transport in Stockton. “We invested in new trucks to continue in this business.”
Some clean-trucks plans allow post-1993 trucks to be retrofitted with various add-on filters that reduce pollution. Retrofits generally cost about $20,000, but in the long run, they could be a bad investment. The retrofitted trucks will be banned when the programs require the use of 2007 or newer trucks, so truckers will get only a few years of service for their $20,000 investment.
Greg Stefflre, a Southern California transportation attorney and trucking company executive, advised truckers with noncompliant trucks to invest in a 2010 model. The 2010 trucks provide full compliance with nitrogen oxide and particulate matter reductions and are superior even to the 2007 models, he said.
However, long-haul companies that purchased 2007 models will begin selling those trucks in three or four years, so harbor truckers should be able to purchase those compliant trucks at half the price they sold for when new, Stefflre said.
The ultimate solution to clean-trucks problems at ports nationwide is for truckers to negotiate rates that reflect the higher costs they incur with the purchase of a new truck, and for the cost of new trucks to come down. “Price will fix the problem,” said Sam Farruggio, owner of Farruggio’s Express in Bristol, Pa.
He said clean-trucks programs, especially the California programs with tight deadlines, created artificially high demand for new trucks. That drove up the price of new trucks, particularly in California.