Thursday, June 18, 2015

CARB needs to wait for more data before hailing port truck rules

An emissions report from the Port of Oakland shows dramatic cuts in smog-forming ingredients, which appears to surprise even the California Air Resources Board.

The continued replacement of older trucks combined with cleaner emissions from each new generation of trucks, however, may have more to do with the improvement than state and local port rules.

Research funded by the California Air Resources Board reportedly shows dramatic decreases in two pollutants they say commonly come from diesel trucks.

According to a news release issued Monday, June 15, research conducted by Berkeley Scientist Robert Harley shows deep cuts in black carbon and oxides of nitrogen. In a PowerPoint presentation available at CARB’s website, CARB said the emissions were measured by a van that analyzed NOx and NO2, black carbon through an aethalometer that measures light absorption, ultrafine particles using a condensation particle counter, particle size distribution and CO2 measured by infrared absorption.

Emissions of black carbon – a key component of diesel particulate matter – dropped 76 percent between 2009 and 2013, CARB said in the news release. CARB said emissions of oxides of nitrogen, blamed for leading to smog, declined 53 percent during the same four-year stretch.

“The study findings are considered dramatic because they occurred over a relatively short time,” CARB said in the news release. “Comparable emissions reductions could normally take up to a decade through gradual replacement of old trucks or natural fleet turnover.”

CARB credited emissions rules adopted by the Port of Oakland and by CARB itself for the emissions gains. CARB’s Drayage Truck Regulation was adopted in 2007 and requires all trucks serving major California ports to be registered and upgraded according to a staggered implementation schedule. By 2023, all Class 7 and Class 8 diesel-fueled drayage trucks must have 2010 or newer engines. Pre-2007 model year trucks cannot currently serve California ports.

The rule has already ushered out many older trucks. Between 2009 and 2013, CARB says, the median age of truck engines serving the port dropped from 11 years old to six years old.

Though CARB may want to credit truck rules for the drop in truck engine age and emissions, multiple changes around ports occurred during the study’s time frame. Also, trucks throughout the United States have become cleaner as older models were replaced by cleaner, newer trucks.

According to the Diesel Technology Forum, 33 percent of all trucks on U.S. highways in 2013 were clean diesel trucks with near zero emissions. Topping the list for the highest percentages of clean diesel trucks were Indiana, Utah and Oklahoma – all states that do not ban older trucks from operating as California does.

The full results of the study and further elaboration will be discussed during a research seminar Dr. Harley will present at 1:30 p.m. PDT on Thursday, June 18. For more information, click here. CARB said the webcast will also be archived at CARB’s website.

Though CARB addressed only trucks in its news release, emissions are down for other reasons as well. By 2013, ships pulling into ports at Oakland, Long Beach, Los Angeles and other major ports in the Golden State had already begun plugging in to shore power while berthing. In fact, the program began at Long Beach in 2004, and culminated in the port reportedly spending $180 million by 2013 for large, high-power extension cords. The move to shore power cut ship emissions by 95 percent, according to the Los Angeles Daily News.

At Oakland, port leaders spent about $60 million upgrading to shore power equipment for ships.

As Land Line reported in October 2014, CARB has taken the unprecedented step of working directly with truck makers to reduce vehicle weight and improve emissions reductions at every level of the manufacturing process.

Before emissions for 2020 and beyond are projected and new regulations are adopted, perhaps CARB will wait and allow the data to show real emissions levels and determine carefully how necessary are new rules that truckers will bear the brunt of.