Thursday, November 5, 2009

No Further Retrofit Funds for Bay Area Truckers

Air quality officials in the Bay Area have sent out "so, sorry" letters to nearly 1,000 independent truck drivers that serve the Port of Oakland. Many of the drivers were notified last week in the Bay Area Air Quality Management District letters that the drivers would not be eligible for grants to upgrade their trucks to meet state air regulations that essentially ban the drivers– nearly a third of the nearly 3,000-vehicle fleet– from operating in the port as of Jan. 1, 2010.

The main reason for the rejection letters is that the $22 million fund on which the BAAQMD was drawing to provide the upgrades is depleted.

The fund was being used to help drivers of 1994 to 2003 model year trucks to pay for diesel smokestack filters– each costing from $10,000 to $21,000. Drivers receiving the grants were only responsible for the sales tax on the retrofit filters.

The fund was also used by the air district to provide $50,000 grants toward the purchase of a new truck, with the remaining $50,000-plus price tag for a new truck being borne by the drivers.

BAAQMD began accepting applications for the filter grants last year and stopped accepting applications Sept. 10 of this year. In reality, though, more than two-thirds of the grant applications were submitted last year and those still available this year were offered on a first-come, first-serve basis. To date more than 815 applications for retrofits have been approved while another 880 rejection letters have been sent out.

Another 190 new trucks have been tentatively approved for a $50,000 full vehicle grant, with more than 180 such applicants rejected.

The BAAQMD said additional funds are not likely to be found to continue the grant program.

Port of Oakland officials have also stated that the original fund was never anticipated to cover all the drivers. Based on current container traffic, officials estimate that the port only needs between 1,000 and 1,300 trucks to adequately service port terminals.