Friday, August 22, 2008

Open for business

An estimated 40 percent of American imports come through the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, and it’s apparent that about 40 percent of truck news is coming from those ports as well.

Just the other day in Land Line’s newsroom, we spent 10 minutes going through the requirements truckers will have to meet to comply with the California Air Resources Board’s rules on drayage trucks, the ports rules themselves, and CARB’s proposed rule on greenhouse gas emissions that also mentions ports.

So we’ve cobbled together a hodgepodge of what’s going on this week at the ports.

As the photo in this post shows, more than $2 billion in truck replacement funds are to be handed out from a trailer parked between the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles.

The California ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have been working for years on a clean truck program aimed at lowering emissions. This week they have rolled out models of trucks that participants in the ports’ “truck replacement program” can choose from.

The photo you see was taken by Joe Rajkovacz, OOIDA’s regulatory affairs specialist, who is on the ground in Los Angeles this week.

Any program handing out $2.2 billion is sure to sound alarms, and this one is no different.

More information about the truck replacement program is available here. A Land Line Special Report about the truck program’s inclusion of Mexican trucking companies is available here.

And today, at the ports, one group is schedule to demonstrate against a financing plan being touted as the way for owner operators to obtain new, low emissions trucks.

Fox Business reported on a press release from the Consumer Federation of California about demonstrators who are comparing the truck replacement program to subprime housing loans, which many are blaming for the current economic swoon. The Port of Long Beach, which is planning on continuing to use owner-operators, has worked with Daimler Chrysler to organize truck funding for owner-operators.

Of the 16,000 drayage drivers who work at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach daily, an estimated 25 percent lack residency documentation and many more drive dilapidated trucks.

From the Consumer Federation of California:

“A Daimler official publicly told the Long Beach officials that the company expects ‘over 40 percent’ of port drivers to have ‘high difficulty meeting the payments’ and that the company's strength is ‘managing collections,’ i.e., repossessing trucks.”

That article is available here.

As you can see, the port topic continues to heat up. The ports will be doling out $2.2 billion for these trucks, and their ability to implement a long-term strategy of cutting emissions is likely to be undermined by competing ports up and down the West Coast of North America who aren’t likely to raise container fees as high as Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Other ports in California, however, will still have to deal with the state’s port restrictions requiring 2007 emissions level truck engines by 2014.

Interestingly, the California Air Resources Board is scheduled to consider a regulation in October that would mandate all non-port truckers upgrade their trucks with assorted SmartWay certified equipment.

A voluntary program, the EPA SmartWay program includes use of fairings, side curtains, low-rolling resistance tires and other technologies aimed at fuel efficiency. Many port trucks, however, won’t be required to upgrade their trucks with SmartWay fairings, side curtains and other body pieces, and may very well be exempted from CARB’s proposed SmartWay reg.

Joe Rajkovacz is interested in CARB’s regulation, and has spoken this week with CARB employees while he’s in California. And he believes long haulers from out of state would be at a competitive disadvantage if the CARB SmartWay rule is approved as-is.

“It’s hypocrisy that our folks are being told under the proposed SmartWay regulation to have air fairings while many port trucks won’t,” Rajkovacz said.

Stay tuned.