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.