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Morgan Wyenn’s Blog

Enforcement of key maintenance provision lacking under Port of LA's Clean Truck Program

Morgan Wyenn

Posted July 23, 2014 in Curbing Pollution, Environmental Justice, Health and the Environment

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UPDATE as of July 24: We are happy to report that the Port of LA's Board of Harbor Commissioners voted to adopt the new Concession Agreement and committed to putting together a plan for the enforcement of the Concession's maintenance requirement by December 31, 2014. 

Tomorrow, July 24, the Port of Los Angeles’ Board of Harbor Commissioners will vote on whether to adopt a new Concession Agreement in its landmark Clean Truck Program. First adopted in 2008, the Port of L.A.’s Clean Truck Program was the first-of-its-kind policy aimed at cleaning up the thousands of trucks that service the Port. Now, several years later, the Port claims that the program has reduced diesel emissions from port “drayage” trucks by as much as 90 percent. This is, of course, wonderful news, but there is one major problem: the Port has done shockingly little to inspect the trucks to make sure they are as clean as they are supposed to be.

In other words, if the trucks aren’t being maintained properly, then there’s a good possibility that they’re putting out more air pollution than they’re supposed to. This undermines the entire purpose of the Clean Truck Program. And without any enforcement by the Port to make sure that the trucks are properly maintained, it’s a stretch to think that those once-new trucks are helping to reduce diesel emissions as much as the Port claims.

The program was challenged in a long legal battle, and one of the provisions of the Concession Agreement at the heart of the dispute was the requirement that the trucking companies maintain the trucks up to manufacturer standards. After years of litigation, this important provision was upheld. And, thankfully, this provision is included in the new version of the Concession Agreement.

Yet, frustratingly, this provision that we fought so hard to defend has not been enforced. Aside from hiring a consultant a few years ago to visit a handful of trucking companies, the Port has done basically nothing to make sure the trucks are maintained to the proper standards … No random inspections. No planned inspections. No looking under the hood. Nothing.

To make matters worse, we hear from Port truck drivers that the trucks are, in fact, not being properly maintained, and many of them are concerned about the risks to safety, not to mention to the environment.  

While we thank the Port for its continuing commitment to the Clean Truck Program generally, we are very concerned about the ever-worsening state of the aging truck fleet. These trucks see a lot of wear and tear, and have expensive, advanced emissions reduction technologies. They need to be maintained to function properly.

We urge the Harbor Commission to not only adopt the new Concession Agreement, but to also direct Port staff to develop and implement a plan to enforce the important maintenance requirement. Only then will the Clean Truck Program make good on its promise of safer, cleaner trucks for the drivers, the local communities, and the region.  

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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