November 6, 2017
Calling it their boldest strategy yet for cleaning up the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, the ports’ joint Boards of Harbor Commissioners passed the final Clean Air Action Plan 2017 update on Nov. 2. Most notably, the 2017 CAAP revises the Clean Truck Program to force the ports to switch completely to a zero-emission fleet by 2035, and calls on operators to leverage near-zero-NOx technologies now.
“The ports’ goal is to transition the current drayage truck fleet to near-zero technologies in the near term and ultimately zero-emissions technologies by 2035,” wrote the commissioners in the final CAAP 2017 update. “The ports project that by 2024, as a result of the [new] truck rate, near-zero-emission trucks could comprise roughly 70 percent to 90 percent of the drayage truck fleet.”
The approved plan update acknowledges comments submitted by the Coalition and other stakeholders urging the ports to use near-zero-emission trucks and equipment on the path to zero emissions. The original draft did not support adoption of the superclean trucks available right now. The final version specifies that fleets should accelerate their deployment of near-zero-emission engines while budgeting and planning for a zero-emission fleet. The plan’s Clean Trucks Program includes incentives and pilot programs to help fleets add cleaner trucks before 2035.
The Clean Trucks Program requires the following actions:
- Beginning in mid-2018, new trucks entering the ports’ Drayage Truck Registry must have a 2014 model year or newer engine.
- Beginning in early 2020, following the anticipated announcement of California’s near-zero-emission heavy-duty engine standard, all heavy-duty trucks will be charged an unspecified rate to enter the ports’ terminals. Trucks that are certified at the near-zero standard or better will be exempt. The final CAAP moved this date up from 2023.
- Starting in 2023, or when the state’s near-zero-emission heavy-duty engine standard is mandatory for truck engine manufacturers, new trucks entering the Drayage Truck Registry must have engines that meet the standard.
- By 2035, only trucks that are certified at zero emissions will be exempt from the truck rate.
“As an industry, we asked the ports to move the date to begin charging trucks a fee to 2018 from 2023. They moved it to 2020 in response,” said Coalition President Thomas Lawson.
Improved but not perfect
Noting that the ports call the CAAP a “planning document” whose details will be developed as part of the implementation process, Lawson identified some improvements he’d like to see as the plan is rolled out.
“I’m pleased to see that the CAAP 2017 update has been improved over the version released in July. However, by strengthening the plan as it’s implemented, the ports can significantly reduce their NOx and greenhouse gas emissions as soon as next year,” said Lawson, who submitted a comments letter on behalf of the Coalition suggesting changes and attended the final vote.
First, the CAAP should stipulate a firm 2018 start date for charging fees on port trucks that don’t meet an emissions rate of 0.02 grams per brake horsepower-hour or better for NOx, regardless of the engine’s model year, the comments say. Lawson argues that immediate truck fees would provide a market incentive for truck owners to take advantage of available funding, including grants specified in the 2017 state budget and the Volkswagen Settlement Fund. This would enable even the smallest operators to begin transitioning to clean trucks right away.
Second, the comments urge the ports to adopt the currently optional 0.02 g/bhp-hr NOx standard as a requirement now—regardless of when CARB adopts a new NOx standard for heavy-duty engines.
“Although we hope CARB will set the new NOx standard to achieve a 90 percent NOx reduction below the current diesel engine standard—it’s been achieved in practice and is a proven target—it’s possible that CARB will set it at a less stringent target,” said Lawson, who pointed out that waiting for CARB to set a new standard could also mean delaying updates to the Clean Trucks Program until 2019 or later.
“Relying on CARB to adopt an undefined standard in future years creates uncertainty for the ports and the port fleets,” he added. “The CAAP standard should be set at 90 percent cleaner than today’s heavy-duty truck emissions standard—then let all clean technologies compete on this level playing field.”
Photo ©Westport Innovations, used by permission