Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Oakland Port Drivers Granted Short Reprieve

A potential shutdown of the Port of Oakland threatened by a Jan. 1 ban on older port-servicing trucks was averted by a marathon weekend negotiating session between the State of California, the City of Oakland and trucking industry officials.

The last minute deal gives Port of Oakland-servicing truckers two weeks to apply for grants to upgrade their trucks and avoid the ban permanently. During the negotiations, a pool of $11 million in state Proposition 1b funds were identified for the truck upgrades. An original pool of $22 million was essentially used up by the early part of this year, leaving many drivers with no way to pay for the retrofit devices, which typically cost between $15,000 and $20,000.

However, while the newly available grants will provide up to $5,000 per trucker for the retrofits, the drivers will still be required to pay for the remaining cost of the upgrades.

In the initial $22 million round of funding, about 1,000 trucks received funds. However, another 1,300 were rejected for grants in the initial round. Port estimates suggest that between 2,000 and 3,000 trucks make up the port-servicing truck fleet.

Under the terms negotiated over the weekend, truckers will have two weeks to apply for the new round of grants and provide proof that they have the financing for the remaining funds to purchase a retrofit device.

The goal of the ban on non-retrofit trucks, which took effect Jan. 1, is to reduce the amount of diesel pollution being generated by port-related activities.

However, according to the pollution reduction program schedule, even the retrofit trucks will be banned within four years and all drivers will be required to operate less polluting model year vehicles.