Port of Long Beach approves Clean Trucks Program

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The Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners voted Tuesday, Feb. 19, to approve key elements of a Clean Trucks Program that will replace and modernize the entire port trucking fleet to slash truck-related air pollution by 80 percent within four years.

After listening to testimony for more than five hours, the Port of Long Beach Commissioners voted unanimously to adopt a truck concession requirement that will help identify “clean” trucks, ensure reliable drayage service and improve air quality, security and safety. Under the plan, only “clean” concession trucks will be allowed to work at the Port of Long Beach.

The Port of Long Beach — which does not own or operate the more than 16,000 drayage trucks that serve its terminals — is one of the world’s busiest seaports.

The concession requirement allows employee drivers, independent contractor drivers or a combination of employee and contractor drivers to work the Port, as they do now. But for the first time, the port trucking industry will be required to meet clean truck, maintenance, security and health insurance requirements. Commissioners also finalized a $2 billion subsidy program to finance the lease or purchase of clean trucks.

“Today, the Port has taken a monumental step to improve air quality and protect the health of the entire community,” said Mario Cordero, president of the Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners. “We have worked closely with many community, environmental and business groups, and this plan incorporates their strongest ideas. This is the most ambitious, far-reaching clean-air plan ever undertaken by any seaport.”

The Commissioners on Tuesday also adopted several other elements of the program:

  • A revision of the start date for the collection of the Clean Trucks cargo fee to Oct. 1 to allow time for distribution of radio-frequency identification tags and reader installation;
  • Linkage of the Clean Trucks $35 per 20-foot container unit (TEU) cargo fee and the Port’s $15 per TEU infrastructure cargo fee. This change targets older “dirty” trucks before new infrastructure is built with cargo fee dollars; and
  • An exemption or partial exemption on the Clean Truck cargo fee for cargo owners who use clean trucks acquired without financing from the Port.
  • The concessions require Licensed Motor Carriers (LMCs) register their drivers and trucks with the Port, and tag their vehicles with RFID devices so the Port can monitor compliance. LMCs will be required to meet clean truck, security, maintenance and health insurance requirements. The Port plans to announce details on registration soon.

    The elements approved Tuesday are key pieces of a sweeping program that has been adopted systematically through several Board votes. In November 2007, the Long Beach and Los Angeles Boards of Harbor Commissioners approved a ban on pre-1989 trucks beginning Oct. 1. By Jan. 1, 2010, only trucks built after 1993 will be allowed into port shipping terminals, and by Jan. 1, 2012, all trucks must meet 2007 federal emissions standards that make new trucks more than 80 percent less polluting than older trucks.

    In December 2007, the Commissions approved the cargo fee to accelerate the replacement of the drayage fleet that serves the Port; the fee will end when the fleet of drayage trucks meets Clean Air Action Plan (CAAP) requirements in about 2012. The Port says it will use the funds to help drivers get new trucks and ensure that older trucks will be scrapped and taken out of circulation, rather than continue to work outside the ports.

    The plan has not won over truck drivers concerned about the price of emissions control technology, the Los Angeles Times reported today, Feb. 20. Also, public health advocates and environmentalists are worried that Long Beach officials went ahead with their plan without the support of representatives of the neighboring Port of Los Angeles, according to the Times.

    Officials at the two ports disagree on a key issue, the Times reported; Los Angeles port officials would prefer trucking firms hire the independent drivers — an option backed by the Teamsters union and environmental groups, but one that Long Beach has rejected.

    “The Port of Los Angeles is committed to continuing to work with the Port of Long Beach on the Clean Trucks Program and other initiatives related to the San Pedro Bay Ports’ Clean Air Action Plan,” the Port of Los Angeles said in a written statement. “The long-term sustainability of a green port drayage system is an integral part of the Clean Trucks Program. In the upcoming weeks, we will provide our Board with the best possible recommendations to achieve this important goal.”