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Closing out long battle, clean truck program to take effect in the new year

( Photo: Port of Seattle)

The long, drawn-out battle over emissions standards at the Ports of Tacoma and Seattle comes to a close on Jan. 1, when updated clean truck requirements go into effect.

By the new year, all trucks serving international container terminals must have a 2007 or newer engine, or a certified emissions control system. These requirements reduce diesel particulate matter emissions by up to 90 percent per truck.

“It has been a big controversy,” said Sheri Call, executive vice president of the Washington Trucking Associations.  Outside of independent operator members, most of WTA’s membership supports the program, she said. “For the most part, it’s frustration that it didn’t get implemented last year.”

The emissions rule was originally supposed to take effect Jan. 1 2018. The deadline was postponed until April 1, and then again to January of next year following a one-day walkout organized by hundreds of independent truckers.

About 80% of the 4,000 drivers cleared to work at the ports are independent owner-operators. During the protest, truckers cited the costs of buying newer-model used trucks, or retrofitting existing vehicles.

To lessen the cost burden, Port officials created a $1 million loan program to help drivers.

As of November 30, a total of 65 loan applications had been submitted, said Katie Whittier, a spokesperson for the Seaport Alliance, the entity that manages the Seattle and Tacoma container terminals.

Whittier said around 70% of the registered trucks meet the new pollution standard. “They are inching up every day,” she said.

The program is a decade in the making. Ten years ago, a federal study revealed elevated cancer risks from airborne toxics in the region, and in response the Ports developed a strategy mandating all trucks meet 2007 federal emissions standards.

As of January 1, RFID tags indicating compliance with the program will be required in both Seattle and Tacoma, Whittier said.

Non-compliant trucks, she said, will be turned away.

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Linda Baker, Staff Writer

Linda Baker is a FreightWaves staff reporter based in Portland, Oregon. Her beat includes early-stage VC, freight-tech, mobility and West Coast emissions regulations.


  1. This 1 million dollar grant was a joke, if you where not a minority you had no chance at the grant, besides there only a handful of truck purchased with this grant money, screw the ports , theres other work to do, I’m happy I don’t have to deal with there bullshit better than you attitudes, long wait times, my truck is newer just not new enough, its paid for, and it was hard work to get it paid off, good by port work!

    1. Dan, I just said pretty much the same thing. I don’t know how you guys turn a profit with paid off equipment, let alone a 2500-3000 a month payment. It’s been a long time since I pulled containers, but between the waiting times, rates, and fines after dot inspected those worn out chassis, there were weeks I didn’t break even. I got into specialized tankers, and never looked back.

  2. One container ship pulling into port releases ten times more pollution than all the trucks in the port combined. So screw truckers over once again and make them responsible for the air pollution in the ports. What a bunch of horse ?.

  3. Releases how much less? How many of you have gone through the truck stop on a dry breezy day and WATCHED the carbon being blown around on the ground yes that fine black dust is carbon discharged every time your truck does a regen. The diesel particulate filter isn’t the reason why we have cleaner burning trucks. It’s all about the pressure and heat applied to the fuel itself as it enters the cylinder. A pint of diesel poured into the cylinder will fire under the same compression as a teaspoon but both will have the same effect too much fuel not enough oxygen leads to exhaustion of unburned hydrocarbons. Yet .05 mL (1/10th teaspoon) introduced as a heated mist is the optimal amount per cylinder cycle without loss of power. In optimal conditions the combustion of diesel fuel the exhausted gases should be carbon dioxide co2 and water vapor h2o both found in nature but if we want to reduce it even further the use of high vacuum and ultraviolet laser will break the co2 into carbon and pure oxygen

  4. Let’s think about this. Take out 150-175K loan to upgrade equipment, so you can haul some of the cheapest freight in the country, on delapitated chassis, after sitting for hours on end to get them loaded. Sounds like a deal! Where do you sign up? To be successful in trucking, you make your real profit in the margins, I give a lot of credit to those that can make it in the container buisness.