With all the labor controversy, political intrigue and costly litigation surrounding clean-trucks programs at U.S. ports, it’s amazing how smoothly the actual process of replacing old, polluting trucks has been.
That’s because when you strip away all the external squabbling, achieving the pollution-reduction goals in such a program is a basic, straightforward process: Simply replace a 2006 or older truck with a 2007 or newer truck and you’ve reduced diesel particulate emissions by 90 percent, Thomas Jelenic, assistant director of environmental planning at the Port of Long Beach, told a recent meeting of the Harbor Trucking Association of Southern California.
Jelenic should know. Among U.S. ports, Los Angeles and Long Beach led the charge to reduce truck emissions because trucks are a bigger contributor to regional pollution there than at any other port complex.
Environmental Mandates Going Global.
How aggressive have they been? Los Angeles and Long Beach, the two largest container ports in the U.S., already have achieved their goal of reducing truck pollution 80 percent by Jan. 1, 2012, in large part because the Southern California harbor trucking industry has replaced 9,000 old trucks with 2007 or newer trucks since the ports launched their clean-air programs two years ago, Jelenic said.
In the coming year, the remaining 1,000 trucks of model years 2005 and 2006 will be removed from service, making 100 percent of the trucks 2007 or newer, Jelenic said.
And now the ports are getting even more aggressive. An update to the ports’ 4-year-old Clean Air Action Plan will expand the clean-air mandates to ocean carriers and railroads. The update, approved by the ports late last month, calls for a preferential deployment system in which shipping lines will bring their newest, cleanest vessels into their Southern California services as quickly as possible, and the ports will work with the carriers to determine what air technology retrofits can be made to engines on existing vessels to reduce pollution.
Similarly, the CAAP update sets goals and standards to prompt railroads to bring their newest and cleanest locomotives to near-dock railyards and to the ports.
The update, the first since the CAAP took effect in 2006, serves as a reminder that the ports’ fundamental principle in its clean-air plans is that all major port-related emissions sources contribute to emissions reductions.
Under the CAAP, air emissions from port-related goods movement declined 33 to 56 percent since 2005, depending on the pollutant and source of emissions.
Los Angeles-Long Beach is paving the way for clean-air programs to spread throughout the U.S. and Canada. At least 10 North American ports are in various stages of implementing clean-trucks plans, though most of the programs allow for engine retrofits and take a more measured approach to banning older trucks than the Southern California ports.
And given the urgency in which Los Angeles-Long Beach had to reduce truck pollution to secure environmental approval for port expansion projects, the Southern California ports felt their plans required fees on older trucks and subsidies to help truckers buy new models. Other ports are taking a market-based approach to reducing pollution.
The Northwest Ports Clean Air Strategy, for example, is a fee-free program that calls for Seattle, Tacoma and Vancouver, British Columbia, by 2015 to achieve 80 percent compliance with 2007 model-year standards. All pre-2007 trucks will be banned by 2017.
Seattle’s program includes financial assistance for truckers that scrap older models, according to Sarah Flagg, senior environmental program manager. Truckers that scrap their pre-1994 vehicles receive the greater of a $5,000 subsidy or the Blue Book value of the older truck.
Oakland’s Comprehensive Truck Management Program follows the drayage truck regulations of the California Air Resources Board that mandate the phasing in of diesel emissions control devices on 1994-2006 model trucks. All trucks must meet 2007 engine standards by Jan. 1, 2014.
Closing Clean-Trucks Loopholes.
Oakland combines its clean-air goals with port security under the Secure Truck Enrollment Program. About 5,000 trucks are registered in the system, which requires the filing of information about the vehicle and the motor carrier. Marine terminal operators beginning next month will turn away truckers that don’t comply with the port’s requirements, spokeswoman Marilyn Sandifur said.
The Port of New York and New Jersey also bans pre-1994 trucks, and will require 100 percent of the trucks to meet federal 2007 emission standards by 2017. The port authority sponsors an incentive program that includes local and federal money for truckers scrapping their older vehicles.
But if clean-trucks plans involved only the phasing out of dirty old trucks and finding a way to help truckers purchase new vehicles, these programs would have generated little controversy. That hasn’t been the case, because community and labor organizations saw clean-trucks plans as providing a vehicle for promoting their socioeconomic goals, and the programs took on a political element.
The harbor trucking industry nationwide is at the bottom of the intermodal food chain in terms of earning power and leverage. The splintered trucking industry has no leverage over the wealthier shipping lines, big box retailers and other cargo interests that determine how cargo is routed. Owner-operator drivers who contract with harbor drayage companies are considered among the lowest paid workers in the transportation industry.
Enter the Teamsters union, which is lobbying labor-friendly cities such as Los Angeles, Oakland, Seattle, New York and Newark, N.J., to include in their clean-trucks plans requirements for employee-drivers. Unions are prohibited from organizing independent contractors, but they are free to attempt to organize employee drivers.
The Los Angeles clean-trucks plan includes mandatory use of employee drivers. The American Trucking Associations sued Los Angeles two years ago to block the employee-driver mandate, and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will take up the case next spring.
Meanwhile, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., sponsored the Clean Ports Act of 2010 that would allow ports to regulate trucking for environmental purposes by granting them an exemption from federal pre-emption law. The Teamsters and environmental groups support the Nadler bill; the ATA and other industry organizations oppose it.
Contact Bill Mongelluzzo at email@example.com.