New emissions guidelines worries truckers


Truckers expressed their concerns to local and state air quality officials as well as the Port of Oakland. They are looking for last-minute relief from new state emission standards they say could cost them their livelihoods.

Pal Singh is one of about 1,200 truckers now hauling cargo to and from the Port of Oakland who will likely be shut out come January 1.

Like many others, Singh applied for state grant money to buy a new filter for his rig.

The grants were designed to help truckers comply with tough new California emission standards at all state ports for diesel trucks manufactured between 1994 and 2003. But Singh's application for the 1,500 to $1,800 retrofit was rejected; only the first 800 were approved.

"Why are you only approving a certain amount of truckers and putting the other truckers out of work?" he said.

The reason is the $22 million in state, federal and local money set aside to subsidize the retrofits at the port ran out.

"We understand that there are truckers who maybe didn't qualify for the funding and that's why we have low-cost financing as well as work-force training partnerships that are going on right now," said Port of Oakland spokesperson Marilyn Sandifur.

Of the 30 trucks in Guy Sanderson's fleet, only six have been retrofitted.

"Hopefully they'll be some more funding, or they'll extend it for a little while and try to help these guys get personal loans," he said.

The new California standards are being administered locally by the bay area air quality management district.

"We have a serious health concern here. When you've got three times greater cancer risks, you've got levels of asthma that are off the chart," said Lisa Fasano from the Bay Area Air Quality District. "That's significant and those have to be weighed in as significantly as the livelihood of the truckers."

Dr. Washington Burns runs a health clinic in West Oakland.

"Anything that would reduce the burden of air pollution would be very helpful to the community," said Dr. Washington.

Once the new rule goes into effect on January 1, there will basically be a zero tolerance policy for truckers that are out of compliance. If they show up at the port and they are out of compliance they will be issued a citation with fine between $1,000 and $10,000.

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