The Los Angeles-Long Beach clean-trucks programs are nearing the end of their first phase, and despite many controversies, the initiatives exceeded all expectations and have set new standards for reducing port pollution.
As the ports transition to the next phase of their clean-trucks plans, beginning on Jan. 1, they acknowledge future gains will be incremental as the focus shifts to longer-term goals of carbon reduction and sustainability. “We’re thinking and planning 10 to 15 years out,” said Christopher Cannon, director of environmental management at the Port of Los Angeles.
Expansion of the nation’s largest port complex came to a halt in the past decade when environmental and community groups challenged almost every capital project for failure to adequately reduce diesel pollution in the harbor.
The ports launched their clean-trucks efforts on Oct. 1, 2008. Since then, motor carriers have deployed nearly 10,000 new trucks that meet or exceed federal Environmental Protection Agency emissions standards for 2007 model trucks, and several East and West Coast ports are in various stages of adopting similar programs.
The ports say no other industry has done so much so rapidly to reduce pollution. Today, less than three years after the first clean trucks were introduced, 93 percent of all cargo moves in the harbor are performed with 2007-model or newer trucks, Long Beach spokesman Art Wong said.
Five percent of the cargo moves are performed by 2004- to 2006-model trucks. Although considered relatively clean at most ports, those trucks will be banned on Jan. 1 in Los Angeles and Long Beach. The ports next month also will begin to phase out older Class 7 trucks that don’t meet emissions standards.
Harbor truckers estimate the programs cost their industry $1 billion, but Cannon said the resulting 80 percent reduction in truck pollution in just three years made the effort worthwhile. It depends on how one measures the value of reducing health risks such as cancer, asthma and respiratory diseases, but most observers would say the benefits outweigh the costs, he said.
Executives at the two ports believe their efforts have given the ports a competitive advantage. The $35 per loaded TEU that has been charged on noncompliant trucks will end on Jan. 1 because there will be no more pre-2007 trucks in the harbor.
Other ports no longer can cite the fee as a cost of doing business in Southern California, and many competing ports must address truck pollution issues that Los Angeles and Long Beach have resolved, said John Holmes, deputy executive director of LA port operations.
The 2007-model trucks resolved the diesel particulate problem and the 2010-model trucks slash nitrogen oxide emissions. As the programs enter the next phase, the focus will shift from health-risk pollution to carbon emissions and global warming. This is a requirement in California under the state’s global warming legislation known as A.B. 32, Holmes said.
Reducing carbon emissions likely will require ultra-clean technologies such as electric trucks. Initial electric truck projects, Holmes noted, aren’t ready for the rigors of harbor hauling. The ports, however, will continue to work with companies to advance zero-emissions technologies through their technology advancement programs.
Furthering the national implementation of pollution-reduction technology is, in fact, an important achievement of the clean-trucks programs, Holmes said.
Sustainability also will be a goal in the coming years, Cannon added. Truck traffic generates ill-will in communities, not only in the harbor but also at near-dock railyards, which are even closer to residential areas. The environmental impact reports on two near-dock projects are due for release by autumn, and the documents likely will look closely at alternative-fuel vehicles, Cannon said.
When the ports calculate the costs and revenue involved in the clean-trucks programs at the end of the year, they will likely report to their respective harbor commissions that they indeed incurred out-of-pocket costs, Cannon said.
Los Angeles, which provided a subsidy of $20,000 per truck to 60 motor carriers to encourage them to introduce clean trucks, will report even higher costs than Long Beach. Los Angeles this summer will attempt to collect about $1.5 million from six motor carriers that did not meet the requirements of the subsidy program. Swift Transportation accounts for $1.4 million of the total, according to the port.
Cannon said the harbor commission has authorized the staff to complete the collection process outlined in the program, and Los Angeles will soon send out payment notices to the trucking companies.