Thursday, January 21, 2010

Oakland Port Kicks Off New RFID Rules, Turns Back 10% Of Truckers Calling At Terminals

Truckers reported scenes of chaos at the Port of Oakland on Tuesday as new environmental rules took effect requiring electronic tags on all trucks entering the port facilities.

While downplaying the incidents, Port officials confirmed that about 10 percent of the drivers that turned up at terminal gates on Tuesday were turned back for various reasons.

The new tag requirement is part of plan that kicked off on Jan. 1 that requires trucks to have retrofit pollution catching devices on their trucks. Drivers were required to have the small radio frequency identification device tags attached to their vehicles to allow electronic readers at the gates to download information on the truck's environmental status and compare it to a statewide database overseen by the California Air Resources Board.

Drivers reported that many of the problems on Tuesday centered on the RFID tags, which were provided to the drivers over the past several months. CARB blamed the majority of the problems on the rainy weather and "first-day jitters." Some drivers were still allowed to continue into the terminals Tuesday if they had proper paperwork.

The new emission rules went into effect on Jan. 1, but a deal reached in late December 2009 gave some drivers two weeks to apply for grants to upgrade their trucks and avoid the ban.

During the negotiations, a pool of $11 million in state Proposition 1b funds was identified for the truck upgrades. An original pool of $22 million was essentially used up by the early part of 2009, leaving many drivers with no way to pay for the retrofit devices, which typically cost between $15,000 and $20,000. Even with the potential $5,000 grants, drivers are still being required to pay for the remaining cost of the upgrades.

In the initial $22 million round of funding last year, 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.