Closing a Few Loopholes: The California Air Resources Board and the LA and Long Beach Ports Take Action to Expand the Successful Clean Truck Program
Over the past few weeks, the two major ports in Southern California—the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach—and the California Air Resources Board have taken significant steps to close two loopholes in the Clean Truck Program. In 2008, the LA and Long Beach ports separately adopted Clean Truck Programs to reduce the air pollution emitted by the trucks that bring cargo to and from the ports. These trucks travel throughout the southern California air basin, and are concentrated in the neighborhoods surrounding the ports and along some of our freeways. The programs ban, in phases, older, dirtier trucks from serving the ports. The program has successfully reduced the air pollution from port trucking at the two ports by 80% since 2008. However, the ports and communities impacted by the negative effects of port trucking have noticed the use of two different practices by trucking companies that are undermining the success of the programs: the use of Class 7 trucks and dray-offs. It is these two practices that the ports and the Air Resources Board have recently taken positive steps to address.
Class 7 Trucks
The Clean Truck Programs applied only to Class 8 trucks—that is, trucks that weigh over 33,000 lbs. Since the implementation of the Programs’ ban of older Class 8 trucks, the ports have seen a growing number of trucking companies using Class 7 trucks—trucks that weigh 26,001 to 33,000 lbs. These smaller trucks have the same problems as the trucks that were originally banned from the ports in the first place; they are older and dirtier and therefore emit more harmful air pollution than newer, cleaner models. The Port of Long Beach estimates that Class 7s have been doing up to 2 to 3% of all truck moves at the two ports. Basically, some trucking companies were finding a way to get around the Clean Truck Program for some of their truck dispatches, allowing them to use dirty trucks and undercut companies that are using only the required newer, clean trucks.
To make sure that all the trucks serving the ports, including Class 7s, meet the goals of the Clean Truck Program, the Port of LA Board of Harbor Commissioners voted on December 16, 2010 to ban Class 7 trucks from entering port property that do not meet the same restrictions applicable to Class 8 trucks beginning on July 1, 2011. The Port of Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners voted a few days later, on December 20, to direct port staff to develop amendments to port policy to do the same. And in a measure that applies to trucks serving ports throughout the entire state, the California Air Resources Board voted on December 17 to require Class 7 trucks to install a diesel particulate filter by 2014, which will significantly reduce the Class 7s’ harmful air pollution.
A dray-off is when a clean truck picks up a cargo container at the port and brings it a short distance—sometimes still on port property—to transfer that container to a dirty truck to transport it for the rest of its journey. The result is that the clean truck is just traveling the short distance back and forth from the port to the transfer location, while the dirty truck is traveling the farther distances, emitting air pollution all along the way, in contravention of the goals of the Clean Truck Program.
The news website Neon Tommy has been following this issue closely and even caught a dray-off on film.
The Port of LA Board voted on December 16 to ban dray-offs on port property; violations are punishable as misdemeanors with fines up to $1,000 dollars and/or imprisonment of up to six months, and the owner of the cargo will have to pay the fee that is applied to all cargo owners that use trucks that don’t comply with the Clean Truck Program. The Port of Long Beach Board voted on December 20 to direct staff to develop a similar policy. This proposal may move forward as soon as early 2011. The Air Resources Board voted on December 17 to expand its regulation of port trucking that will effectively apply to trucks participating in the dray-offs. Between the ports’ bans of dray-offs that take place on port property and the Air Resources Board’s measure to require all trucks carrying port cargo, including those participating in a dray-off, to meet the Board’s port truck clean air standards, the three agencies within a few day period together took action to hopefully reduce dray-offs from taking place both on and off port property.
In sum, all of these measures are good steps on the path to continue to clean up the trucks that move cargo throughout Southern California. But two important points cannot be forgotten. First, it is critical that port staff and the Air Resources Board aggressively enforce these measures and the other components of the Clean Truck Programs. Serious enforcement is necessary to achieve the clean air benefits that we all know the Clean Truck Programs are capable of achieving.
Second, the trucking companies—and not the individual truck drivers—must be held responsible for these and the other requirements of the Clean Truck Programs. Too often trucking companies are pushing the responsibilities of complying with the programs on to the individual truck drivers. This includes the responsibility to properly maintain the truck. The intent of the Programs was to require trucking companies to be responsible for and pay for the expensive maintenance of the clean trucks, as there is no doubt that individual truck drivers simply do not have the financial ability to pay for the maintenance bills. Because the trucks will quickly become unsafe and pollute more if they are not properly maintained, the trucking companies’ obligation to pay is critical to protect nearby communities from unsafe trucks and toxic air pollution. Without proper maintenance, the successes of the Clean Truck Program in cleaning up the pollution from port trucking by 80% since 2008 will be lost as the lack of maintenance allows the trucks to pollute more and more over time. It is critical that the ports and the California Air Resources Board make sure that their new measures are enforced against the trucking companies directly and do not become just another burden placed upon the drivers.