Ports around the nation have mandated or encouraged the voluntary transition to modern, cleaner-burning diesel engines for motor carriers serving marine terminals, but federal, state, local or private sector assistance to help small businesses upgrade to new tractors should be targeted at 2010 model year engines because they do a better job at controlling pollution than the 2007 engines, according to an official working on air quality issues.
“At some point there’s going to be a time to stop subsidizing 2007 trucks” because the 2010 engines mandated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are much cleaner, Susan Wierman, executive director of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Air Management Association (MARAMA), recently said at a stakeholders summit on port sustainability hosted by the EPA in Baltimore.
The 2007 standard broadly called for reducing emissions of particulate matter to .01 grams as a factor of engine power output, while the stricter 2010 standard called for a reduction in both particulate matter and nitrogen oxide. The EPA required clean diesel engines that can run on low-sulfur fuel (500 parts per million) in all new Class 8 tractors manufactured in 2007 and beyond. The pollution-control technologies in the engines require low-sulfur content in the fuel to perform properly. The EPA raised the standards again in 2010, requiring the production and use of ultra-low sulfur fuel (15 parts per million). The cleaner engines reduce smog-causing nitrogen oxide emissions and soot, which the EPA estimated would prevent 8,300 premature deaths, 5,500 cases of chronic bronchitis and 17,600 cases of acute bronchitis in children.
Nationally, about one-third of heavy-duty trucks on the road meet the clean truck standards and about 15 percent meet the higher 2010 standard, according to the Diesel Technology Forum. The newer engines also have anywhere from a 3 to 5 percent improvement in fuel economy than the 2007 versions, which motor carriers said had slightly worse performance than the legacy engines.
Many ports are trying to get drayage drivers that shuttle containers back and forth to terminals to ditch old, dirty trucks for newer ones in an effort to minimize their impact on local air quality and maintain good relations with nearby communities so they won’t face opposition for needed infrastructure expansion. The twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have, through a mandate and with the financial assistance of beneficial cargo owners represented by the Coalition for Responsible Transportation, already have phased out all pre-2007 trucks. Harbor trucks are now responsible for less than 9 percent of all port emissions of particulate matter, down from 32 percent in 2007. Diesel particulate matter from drayage trucks has been cut 80 percent and nitrogen oxide is down more than 92 percent since then.
Wierman explained after her presentation that the 2007 engines appear less effective at reducing the health effects of diesel emissions than 2010 EPA- certified engines. One of the main pluses of the 2010 engine is an improved diesel particulate filter, she said.
The California Air Resources Board offers more dollars through its incentive program to truckers that opt for a 2010 engine.
MARAMA is managing the Mid-Atlantic Dray Truck Replacement Program, which used an EPA grant and support from private sources such as Cal Cartage and Champion Truck Lines to help truckers in four ports — Norfolk, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Wilmington, Del. — scrap their vintage trucks and replace them with used trucks powered by 2007 model year or newer engines.
The consortium was able to replace 212 trucks, almost twice the original goal of 110 trucks, Wierman said. The replacement figure, however, is a drop in the bucket compared to the total number of trucks serving the ports. The Port of Virginia alone, for example, has a regular fleet of about 2,700 trucks.
Wierman said the average cost for a truck purchase was $52,000, with the truck replacement program providing owner-operators with up to $20,000. Owner-operators in the short-haul dray sector typically buy used trucks sold by long-haul truckers after about five years. Many are interested in the subsidies, as well as financing assistance, because they worry port authorities that haven’t already may mandate only modern trucks to access their property, she said.
MARAMA is working with the Virginia Port Authority and Maryland Port Administration to extend the dray replacement program in those ports now that the EPA funding has run out.
In a research paper last year, scientists at the Environmental Defense Fund concluded that voluntary clean truck programs aren’t as effective as mandatory ones. Emissions reductions at the ports of Virginia, Charleston and Houston were found to be 1 to 4 percent compared to potential reductions of 12 to 15 percent for particulate matter and 31 to 34 percent for nitrogen oxides if the ports had banned all trucks with pre-1994 engines. The twin ports in Southern California were able to achieve even greater reductions because they banned all trucks before 2007.
This article was published in the June 2014 issue of American Shipper.