Money for Trucks: The $100 Million Milestone for financial assistance to small business truckers
Last week marked an important milestone in California’s effort to reduce diesel truck pollution. The State Treasurer announced that $100 million in funds has been given so far to small businesses for loans or lease-to-own arrangements so that they can upgrade their trucks to newer, cleaner models before state regulations on diesel trucks and buses require the cleaner vehicles. This important program has helped small businesses purchase more than 1,600 cleaner trucks and over 180 exhaust filters that remove more than 85 percent of toxic diesel soot.
This is great news because we need every old truck in service to clean up and we have a long way to go. According to the companies that make diesel filters and other exhaust controls, only about one quarter of the 12,000 trucks that need to install filters to comply with diesel clean up regulations this year have done so already. Hopefully the situation has improved with the outreach and enforcement efforts during August, which was Clean Truck Month. Enforcement activities are now underway with penalties for non-compliance potentially including fines of up to 10,000 per vehicle per day, liens on assets, and preventing registration renewals.
Stepped up enforcement efforts are key to ensuring that the diesel truck fleet cleans up. We hear reports from concerned community members of truck dispatchers giving directions to avoid known inspection areas; and trucks blowing thick black smoke yet displaying compliance stickers. While this is anecdotal, it bears investigation.
We hope truck owners are taking compliance with state regulations seriously, since the health impacts of diesel pollution are serious. In addition to the recent World Health Organization finding of diesel exhaust as carcinogenic, diesel exhaust and its primary constituents of fine particulate matter and at least forty different toxic air contaminants are associated with a wide range of severe health impacts from asthma and respiratory illness to adverse birth outcomes and premature death. Adding to the list of known health impacts related to traffic pollution – of which diesel exhaust is a key contributor – a recent study showed elevated risks to pregnant women for suffering pre-eclampsia, a life-threatening condition that can affect mother and baby.
Ultimately we know that no truck driver or owner wants to contribute to pollution or associated health problems. After all, drivers breathe in more exhaust than anyone else. Everyone needs to do their part supporting these important diesel clean up measures. We look forward to several hundred million dollars more in funding and reaching the 100,000 truck clean up milestone.