Four Mid-Atlantic ports seek to replace older trucks

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Four Mid-Atlantic States are teaming up to offer a program aimed at replacing older more polluting trucks. Led by the University of Maryland and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Air Management Association, the new program announced Tuesday, June 28, will target the short-haul drayage fleet that shuttles between their major ports, warehouses and local stores.

The effort seeks to double the impact of a federal cash-for-clunkers-style program with public and voluntary private contributions. The Mid-Atlantic Dray Truck Replacement Program will offer $15,000 to short-haul truckers to cover the down-payment on a new vehicle; the program also is helping arrange financing for the truckers.

“We no longer want our ports to be the place where old trucks go to die,” says Joanne Throwe, director of the University of Maryland Environmental Finance Center, which is coordinating the new effort. “It’s not just the air around the port that suffers – it’s the routes the trucks follow throughout the region.”

The Ports of Virginia, Baltimore, Wilmington and Philadelphia, with support from their states, are chipping in to add dollars to a $3.3 million base grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Private industry also has expressed interest in supporting the effort financially.

All together, the program will match EPA support dollar-for-dollar with a combination of public and private money. Already, the organizers have lined up more than $400,000 in public support. More is pending, and they also are expecting financial commitments from the industry as well. In the first year, Throwe hopes to raise about $1.5 million in public and private money to extend the impact of the EPA grant.

“Businesses along the supply chain understand that they and their employees benefit by maintaining as clean a footprint as possible,” Throwe says. “Helping truck drivers – mainly from small businesses – to afford cleaner greener trucks is a goal the private sector can embrace.”

“This is a great example of how a government and industry partnership should work,” says Louis Campion, president of the Maryland Motor Truck Association. “The program goals are admirable – reducing emissions from mobile sources at the Mid-Atlantic ports to promote clean air for everyone’s benefit, and the government is giving private industry the tools needed to achieve those objectives.”

The Mid-Atlantic program is based on other clean truck efforts springing up around the country, including programs at the ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle, Tacoma, Virginia and Houston, and more recently the Port of New York and New Jersey.

The Port of Virginia was the first to open its own dray replacement initiative – the Green Operator Program – to the Mid-Atlantic partnership in March. The port says it is leveraging the new regional effort with a $300,000 contribution and has a waiting list of about 150 applicants, with 24 applications ready to receive approval for funding.

The Port of Baltimore also anticipates contributing financially; the port says more than 75 short-haul truckers operating there have expressed interest in applying for replacement support. The Ports of Philadelphia and Wilmington are set to open their replacement initiative in July, and both say they already have had interest from dozens of carriers and sponsors.