Which Came First: Clean Trucks at Ports or a Port Clean Truck Program?

trucks-pixabayThe classic “chicken or the egg dilemma” is often used to talk about cause and effect. Although this question is usually posed as a philosophical examination of some obscure topic, we now have a clear case for true causality: port clean truck programs result in cleaner trucks at ports.

Last week, the Port of New Orleans joined the growing list of ports who have launched formal clean truck programs to encourage trucking companies to replace older, more polluting trucks with newer trucks with fewer emissions. Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) supported the Port of New Orleans’ efforts to develop their “Clean Truck Replacement Incentive Program” (Clean TRIP), which will be funded from the EPA’s Diesel Emissions Reduction Act Program. The funding will assist 20 truck operators in replacing their dirtier diesel trucks by offering up to $35,000 or 50 percent of the cost of a 2012 or newer truck. In addition to the immediate opportunity to reduce emissions from the first 20 trucks, the port will also be able to incentivize more truck replacements in the future, by pursuing additional grants or developing other innovative funding approaches.

The Port of New Orleans joins the Port of Houston as the only two ports on the Gulf Coast with clean truck programs. The efforts in Houston have been successful (and cost-effective, according to a peer-reviewed scientific study conducted by EDF authors) in reducing smog-forming pollution and cancer-causing diesel particulates, but we estimate there are still more than 2,500 trucks operating at the Port of Houston that would benefit from replacement.

EDF has been a strong advocate for ports to create clean truck programs because of the significant benefits that result from these programs:

  1. Reduced emissions from trucks operating at ports – Unlike long-haul trucks, trucks hauling containers and other cargo at ports (so-called “drayage trucks”) are the oldest trucks in a fleet. Ports tend to be magnets for older trucks since there is less risk if the truck breaks down in the vicinity of its destination, rather than hundreds of miles away on a long haul trip.
  2. Engagement with local drivers and businesses – Because of the nature of short-haul drayage operations, truck owners are typically owner-operators or owned by local businesses. Initiatives at ports like clean truck program incentives help to build relationships between the local port authority and port users, paving the way for other opportunities to collaborate on economic and environmental initiatives that benefit local communities.
  3. Community benefits near port facilities – Goods movement operations at ports concentrate many types of heavy-duty equipment and vehicles, such as ships, tugboats, locomotives, cargo-handling equipment, and drayage trucks. In many cases, trucks driving to and from port facilities (or waiting to enter port facilities) can have additional health impacts on communities because they may be using roadways near schools, daycares, or nursing homes, and other areas where sensitive populations could be exposed to emissions from trucks.

EDF commends the Port of New Orleans for joining the list of ports that have taken specific action to reduce truck emissions and protect community health, and we encourage other Texas and Gulf Coast ports to follow suit. EDF is available to help, so let us know how we can work together.

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  • About the author

    Manager, Air Quality, Port and Freight Facilities Chris' current role with EDF includes developing environmental performance strategies for the port and freight sectors, as well as working to identify innovative partnerships for clean air projects in transportation and goods movement.

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