Port OKs fees for clean trucks plan

first_imgThe charge is expected to be suspended by 2012, when about 16,800 drayage trucks operating at the twin port complex are expected to meet 2007 federal emissions standards, resulting in an 80 percent reduction in emissions. The fee is a follow-up to last month’s decision to ban older, dirtier trucks from the ports as part of a phased-in program set to begin Oct. 1, 2008, as part of the Clean Trucks Program and the wider Clean Air Action Plan. “This container fee is a fundamental step to ensuring we have the momentum and money to make the most aggressive plan to green the ports’ truck fleet a reality,” said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. “With the financial groundwork laid, it’s now time to push forward on the rest.” Environmentalists and health advocates praised the commission’s decision and pointed to studies that have linked diesel emissions to cancer, heart disease and asthma. While the fee will be used to help purchase cleaner-burning big rigs, truckers who work as independent contractors said that they cannot afford to maintain the new vehicles. After expenses, independent drivers typically earn about $8 to $12 an hour. They said the paltry earnings are too little to maintain the new trucks, which would require an overhaul every three to five years. “We’re always doing Mickey Mouse stuff to our trucks to fix them right now,” trucker Miguel Aragon said. “You can imagine if we have to fix these new trucks what the repairs will be like.” Next month, both ports are scheduled to consider who should own and maintain the new trucks, and whether to set standards for port control over trucking companies, marking the third, most disputed portion of the Clean Trucks Program. “Rescue us from the very difficult situation we find ourselves in as owner-operators,” Aragon told the harbor commission. “We ask you to be supportive of us because we are already employees, even though we are not classified as employees.” Truckers have gained an ally in Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn, who said she supports drivers like Aragon, who want to be recognized as full-time workers. “Clean trucks are great but won’t do us much good without a stable work force to drive them,” said Hahn, whose 15th District includes the Port of Los Angeles. The trucking and shipping industries have argued that shipment costs would soar if companies were required to hire independent drivers as full-time workers, who would likely join unions and demand benefits. “I think the next step is the most crucial and difficult part in implementing the program, and I think the port commissioners are coming to believe that too,” said Julie Sauls, vice president of external affairs for the California Trucking Association. art.marroquin@dailybreeze.com 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! A “special” cargo fee aimed at generating $1.6 billion to pay for newer, cleaner short-haul diesel trucks by 2012 was approved Thursday by the Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners. The $35 fee will be placed on all loaded 20-foot cargo containers entering the Port of Los Angeles, and a $70 fee will be slapped on 40-foot cargo containers beginning June 1, 2008, to help pay for the Clean Trucks Program. The charge would not apply to containers entering or leaving the port by train, car carriers or fuel tanks. Port officials admitted that the fee may eventually drive up the cost of goods shipped on cargo containers but said that they cannot expand operations without finding a way to reduce diesel emissions spewed from trucks, ships and railroads operating at the twin port complex. “Ultimately the fee will be paid by the consumers but we are talking about a few cents on an item that sells for hundreds of dollars,” said S. David Freeman, president of the harbor commission. “What we’re getting from that is the elimination of pollution, which is causing damages of $4 million and $5 million. This is about the best investment I can think of that we can possibly make.” The Port of Long Beach approved the same fee plan Monday. Long Beach harbor commission President Mario Cordero, who sat beside Freeman during most of the meeting Thursday, said he is looking forward to working with his counterparts in Los Angeles in finally implementing the long-delayed Clean Trucks Program. “Obviously we’re working towards a very monumental plan, a cutting-edge plan,” Cordero said. “The steps that we’re taking together as ports are steps that are going to make a dramatic change with regard to the reduction of emissions from trucks.” The new container fees will be collected by the ports’ shipping terminals, but concerns were raised about how the new charge should be collected. Freeman asked port staffers to draw up a plan that either reimburses or completely exempts drivers of cleaner-burning trucks from paying the fee. A formal payment plan is expected to come before the board next month. “I don’t want to adopt this thing with just a bunch of vague understandings,” Freeman said. “If a truck is compliant, it should not pay the fee.” last_img

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