By Eric Weaver, CEO, Opportunity Fund
Last month, Opportunity Fund helped truckers beat a February deadline to retrofit their truck engines as new EPA emissions standards in California went into effect. Truckers told Opportunity Fund that without loans to cover the retrofitting costs, they would have had to give up trucking or move their business to another state. We’ve made 30 loans to truckers so far. The price tag to clean up their engines amounts to $12,000 – $19,000, well beyond the capacity many of the truckers have to pay with their $30,000-$40,000 annual incomes. In order to help, Opportunity Fund put $1 million in financing on the table to enable truckers to comply with the new regulations by retrofitting their trucks’ engines.
The EPA’s Air Resources Board approved the new truck-engine emissions regulation in December, 2008. Why? California’s cities have some of the worst air quality in the country, especially around the Oakland and Long Beach ports, where thousands of trucks line up and idle each day as they await their next load. Unfortunately, the cost to move goods by truck throughout the state includes significant harm to the state’s citizens: Trucks and buses account for about 30 percent of statewide nitrogen-oxide (greenhouse gas) emissions and 40% of toxic soot emissions. These emissions cause numerous adverse health effects, including increased rates of asthma and about 4,500 premature deaths per year. Under tighter emissions standards, regulators expect to save 9,500 lives and $50 billion in heath care costs savings.
Unfortunately, a well-intended environmental health regulation aimed at improving the state’s future had dire consequences on the economic well-being of the state’s truckers today. As one self-employed trucker who received a loan from us explained, “Pollution comes from trucks, and I support efforts to clean up the environment. But it is very difficult for truckers to pay on our own.” We’re proud to be able to assist in an effort that gets truckers back on the road and improves the environment for these overly polluted communities.
Ed Note: TriplePundit is a Media sponsor for the upcoming Microfinance USA conference on May 20-21 in San Francsico. The event is put on by Opportunity Fund and will feature speakers such as Maria Shriver and Premal Shah. Excellent speakers, tours of microentrepreneur operations, and a Taste of Microentrepreneurship Cocktail Reception are among the highlights to come. Register now, early bird discount ends March 15th.