Clean Truck Program Celebrates First Year Anniversary

trucks_fTrucks in Southern California ports faced stricter regulations in the past year.

This month marked the one year anniversary of the Clean Truck Program, which called for stricter standards on emissions and the end of diesel trucks in the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Public officials and environmentalists celebrated the initial results of the program, which show a 70% reduction of average air emissions from trucks in the first year. This is more than the proposed goal, says Port of Los Angeles Clean Truck Program Manager Chris Cannon. “The original goal was to have 80% reduced emissions in 5 years.” Cannon projects that the program will “easily exceed the 80% goal after just 15 months of the program.”

Mayor Villaraigosa was also impressed with the first year results of the Clean Truck Program, issuing a statement saying, “One of our region’s biggest economic engines is getting the overhaul it needs to lower port air pollution and ‘grow green.’”

The excitement over the reduced emissions hasn’t spread to the trucking industry. Truckers say the regulations were made without any input from the industry it aims to regulate. Kevin Dukesherer is one of four directors of Progress Transportation Services, a trucking company which was large enough to be able to afford to replace their entire Southern California fleet with 61 new “clean diesel” trucks.

“I certainly can see that it’s going to improve air quality,” said Dukesherer. “I don’t agree with the way they went about it… this should have been something that was done in conjunction with the industry.”

Progress Transportation Services is part of a group of ten trucking companies that form the Clean Truck Coalition, which represent the trucking industry on regulatory matters. “They didn’t sit down with us until after the program was announced and it was already in the works,” says Dukesherer. “It was a little too late.”

The Clean Truck Program, enacted October 1st of 2008, effectively banned all diesel engine trucks that were manufactured before 1989 from Los Angeles port terminals. This means that approximately 1,500 - 2,000 diesel trucks were removed from short-haul cargo container trips, called drayage operations.

Health studies done by the South Coast Air Quality Management District and the California Air Resources Board found diesel exhaust correlated with significantly increased cancer risks in the region. Sam Atwood, spokesman for the South Coast Air Quality Management District points to the MATES III study, which looked at toxic air pollution across the Los Angeles region and found that diesel exhaust was responsible for about 84 percent of the cancer risk from air pollution.

The Clean Truck Program mandated that older diesel-guzzling trucks be either replaced by natural gas-powered trucks, or retrofitted to meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2007 emission standards. This means replacing old engines with newer, “clean diesel” engines.

At 100,000 dollars per truck, it’s no small cost for a trucking company to meet the new standards. Dukesherer’s company had to replace 61 trucks in order to keep from losing their port business. Unfortunately not all companies have the funds to get the necessary new equipment. Dukesherer says the Clean Truck Program has effectively changed the trucking industry to favor large companies, “dooming” smaller companies or independent truckers to bankruptcy.

“We realize that the market is going to be shrinking as far as competition goes, that’s what this is doing, it’s definitely reducing competition,” said Dukesherer. He already sees the effect in some small businesses which have “fallen by the wayside,” but predicts there will be more bankruptcies to come.

However for the companies able to leverage their credit and find a way to make it work, the future may be brighter for them. Dukesherer is optimistic. “At some point we hope to make it up with an increased rate infrastructure and increased business,” he said.

For people like Dukesherer, reduced competition means more business, but for those unable to do business at the Ports, the future looks dim. More regulations for the trucking industry are in the pipeline. As of January 2010, non-retrofitted trucks older than 1994, will not be allowed to access the Ports. For January of 2012, all trucks that do not meet 2007 EPA standards will be denied access.

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