The struggle to take “dirty” trucks operating in West Coast port areas off the road has been a major rallying cry for ports and environmentalists for at least five years, but the effort is beginning to pay off.
The Port of Seattle reports that its voluntary, buy-back incentive clean air program recently saw the 100th dirty truck removed from service, in just a matter of a few months.
Called the Scrappage and Retrofits for Air in Puget Sound (ScRAPS) program, it began in November with the goal of taking cargo container haulers, or port drayage trucks with pre-1994 engines, off the road.
“So far, the program has exceeded expectations, scrapping 100 trucks in just a few months,” the port said in a press release. Through the program, truckers receive $5,000 or the blue book value of their truck – whichever is greater – in return for scrapping their old truck.
ScRAPS grew out of the partnership between the Port of Seattle, Puget Sound Clean Air Agency and Cascade Sierra Solutions (CSS), working toward the goals of the Northwest Ports Clean Air Strategy, which aims to lower industrial port emissions.
It combines a buy-back and scrap program for trucks with pre-1994 engines, truck replacements, and exhaust retrofits using a combination of grant funding sources from Ecology, the Clean Air Agency, Port of Seattle, and CSS. Later this year, funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation via the City of Tacoma will be added to the program to expand its reach. Truckers then have the option of taking their buy-back money and purchasing a newer truck with loan assistance from Cascade Sierra Solutions, the partner responsible for implementing the Clean Trucks program, or going to a third party.
“We are excited to have reached this milestone so quickly,” said Jim Nolan, Interim Executive Director of the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, in a statement. “One hundred of the oldest, most-polluting trucks servicing the Port of Seattle have now been scrapped and replaced with trucks that emit 60 to 80 percent less air pollution, resulting in immediate air quality benefits for communities adjacent to the port. This will remove nearly 1.5 tons of fine particles from the air in and around the port annually.”
According to Kathy Boucher, CSS Seattle branch manager, more than half of the drivers receiving funds buy a newer truck, resulting in a “significant upgrade” to the drayage fleet.
As of its most recent accounting period last month, the program has spent more than $450,000 to take pre-1994-engined trucks off the road. CSS also is reimbursed from the scrap metal off the older trucks, funds that cover their administrative costs.
Compare that minuscule amount to the millions of dollars spent in lawsuits, counter-suits, regulatory appeals, starts, stops and general weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth that came from efforts to implement the mandatory San Pedro Bay Ports Clean Air Action Plan, which was adopted in 2006. The plan’s goal is to reduce air pollution from all types of machinery by 45 percent by 2012 at the nation’s two largest port complexes in Los Angeles and Long Beach. The Clean Trucks Program, the truck replacement component of the overall emissions reduction program in the area, reduced truck pollution by nearly 80 percent as of January, about two years ahead of schedule.
Beginning January 1, the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles banned drayage trucks with engine model years of 1993 and older under ithe Clean Trucks Program, affecting some 8,000 trucks.
A long, winding road to be sure, and for Southern California’s ports especially, but the air around West Coast port regions finally is clearing.