L.A., Long Beach Harbor Commissions adopt policy to push for clean trucks

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The Harbor Commissions of the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach voted Monday, March 9 to commit to implementing a “Clean Truck Fund Rate,” which would charge companies for using heavy-duty trucks that aren’t fueled by cleaner energy.

Members of both ports voted to charge operators $10 per loaded twenty-foot-equivalent unit, with certain exemptions for zero-emission and low nitrous-oxide trucks.

“This is a step forward in demonstrating our commitment to reducing air emissions in the near-term while advancing the development and use of zero-emission drayage trucks,” Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka said. “The establishment of a rate is a call to our agency partners, truck manufacturers and industry stakeholders that the Port of Los Angeles stands ready to partner in a comprehensive effort to achieve our shared vision of an economically strong trade gateway powered by zero-emission equipment.”

Rolling Hills City Councilwoman Judy Mitchell said emissions in her area have been reduced significantly over the years but improvements still need to be made.

“We’ve made a lot of progress in the last 20 years. We’ve cut emissions in half, but we are still a district that has the worst air quality in the nation,” Mitchell said. “It’s really not acceptable our citizens have to breathe polluted air.”

Los Angeles Harbor Commission President Jamie Lee moved to have the ports deliver an annual report on the fees and whether they generate adequate revenue.

Lee said the economic study used to determine the clean truck rate was completed during a different economic time and that there could be adjustments made to it. Commissioners cited the negative effects the coronavirus outbreak has had on international trade and markets as part of the current economic uncertainty.

“The $10 rate is a start. It’s a way to get ourselves along the pathway, away from doing nothing, which deferring this action any further would be doing nothing,” Lee said.

Truck drivers who spoke during the meeting said they were concerned the costs could make operating very difficult. Some said they were in favor of a $5 rate per unit rather than $10 per unit.

Long Beach Harbor Commissioner Bonnie Lowenthal said she was concerned by the rate and what it could cost businesses.

“We have the greatest degree of (economic) uncertainty right now […] and I just don’t feel that it’s time to make a commitment on a rate,” Lowenthal said. “We need bold action if we’re going to clean the air. I also believe we don’t have enough information. We don’t know how much the coronavirus will be impacting us. I need to know this truck rate is not going to adversely impact the cost of doing business here, because as we know it’s already high.”

The ports’ Clean Air Action Plan has established a goal of using 100% zero-emissions trucks by 2035, and a component of the overall strategy to transition the truck fleet is to establish a Clean Truck Fund Rate, port officials said.

The fees are anticipated to generate $90 million in the first year, port officials said, and the money collected from the Clean Truck Fund Rate will be used to incentivize cargo owners to use cleaner trucks.

Before the rate can be set, the California Air Resources Board must first set its low nitrous-oxide engine emission standard, anticipated to occur this spring, and the ports must establish a mechanism to collect the rate at the gate before implementing the rates, also anticipated to occur this spring.

Once both of those actions occur, the ports will present a tariff amendment to their respective boards to implement the rate, port officials said, and they expect to begin collecting fees later this year.

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