Thursday, October 1, 2009

SoCal Ports' Clean Truck Program: Year One

The multi-billion dollar program by the adjacent ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles to cut drayage truck emissions up to 80 by 2012 celebrated its first full year of implementation this week.

The ports announced that the Clean Truck Program is well ahead of schedule with nearly 5,000 trucks of the 13,000 remaining in the ports-servicing fleet now meeting the cleaner 2007-or-later model year emissions. These nearly 5,000 trucks, according to the ports, now account for more than half of the 39,000 average daily container moves at the ports.

The truck plan was first announced in early 2007 and began implementation on October 1, 2008, with a ban on pre-1988 trucks. Another ban on pre-1994 trucks is set to take effect at the start of 2010 and a final ban on all pre-2007 trucks will take effect on January 1, 2012.

Under the program, the ports are currently charging beneficial cargo owners $35 per TEU for any container moved through the ports by a un-banned but pre-2007 model year truck.

Despite the announced successes, a year later questions and criticisms remain.

The ports still face a legal challenge to the program by the American Trucking Associations and other industry groups. The suit awaits trial in a US District Court in December after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said the lower court erred in initially ruling last year in favor of the ports. An additional legal challenge of the ports’ program by the Federal Maritime Commission was dropped earlier this year.

In addition, critics of the program have questioned the labor and competition cost of the program, pointing out that nearly 6,000 drivers have vanished from the ports’ drayage fleet since the program began. Critics also point to a loss of competition as nearly 300 mostly small trucking firms have also disappeared since the program began.

Opponents of the plan also point out that little hard evidence is available to support the air quality claims of the program and the ports admit that complete metrics of the first full year of the program’s operation may be up to a year away.