Port of Oakland, truckers reach agreement on emissions

January 4, 2010 6:26:51 PM PST
A threatened shut down at the port of Oakland was averted on Monday, but it did not return to business as usual. Hundreds of truckers are idle filling out paperwork as part of deal reached in a marathon negotiating session over the weekend to help them meet new clean air standards.

The line was so long, people had to be turned away at the end of the day at the Port of Oakland. They were filling out forms to ask for financial assistance for a filter to help reduce diesel emissions, so they can continue driving their trucks into the Port of Oakland.

Hundreds of independent truck drivers parked for the day, but not as a work stoppage. They are applying for money to help them retrofit their trucks with a new filter to meet new state diesel emission standards.

"The state is out of money. It is not our fault, it's not the truckers' fault, we need to sell more bonds," said Bill Aboudi, a trucking company manager.

$21 million had been allocated initially for the retrofits. That money was used up quickly. After a weekend meeting between Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, state officials, and the trucking industry, they found an additional $11 million. These are truckers whose applications had been rejected. They're getting a second chance.

"Using Prop 1B moneys, we reallocated them from something else and making them available, to give $5,000 to truckers for the $16, 000 to 20,000 retrofit devices," said Lisa Fasano from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

The truckers have two weeks to find financing for the rest of the retrofit. The device is basically a filter that replaces the muffler. They have done hundreds of them at Cummings West.

"We're trapping all of the diesel particulate matter in the filter there and it basically gets all stored in that filter and is not coming out in the exhaust of the truck," said Tripp Heller from Cummings West.

"And then periodically, we burn off the soot with a burner that works a lot like a self cleaning oven to eliminate the collected soot," said Brad Edgar from Cleaire Advanced Emission Controls.

Diesel exhaust has raised concern about health problems in West Oakland. Even with this financial help, truckers are apprehensive about the regulations.

"There's a lot of anxiety because the truckers know this may be a short term resolution," said Ron Dacus, from the Rail and Port Truckers Association.

And tougher standards are coming.

"In four years, all the retrofitted trucks are going to be phased out and need to be replaced. The question is: where will the money coming from?" said Doug Block, Coalition for Clean and Safe Ports.

It is possible the tuckers may have to buy new trucks. Roughly 1,300 truckers were rejected initially -- some of them were at the port on Monday and more will be back on Tuesday. The truckers have two weeks and officials at the port are trying to schedule a meeting with Dellums to see if they can find more money.