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Clean Truck Program wins unanimous approval

Shirley Hawkins | 3/26/2008, 5 p.m.

The Los Angeles Harbor Commission Thursday voted unanimously in favor of a landmark Clean Truck Program, which will slash diesel truck emissions by 80 percent and help reduce air pollution which kills 2,400 Californians each year.
Air pollution has especially affected the health of African American children. Research conducted among school children in urban Los Angeles estimates prevalence rates of probable asthma at 14 percent. More than one in four African American school children in urban Los Angeles have probable asthma, and hospitalization rates for asthma are three times higher for African American children than for children of other racial and ethnic groups, according to statistics provided by the Asthma Coalition of Los Angeles County.
The vote for the Clean Truck Program is designed to achieve long-term sustainability, accelerate the replacement of high-polluting trucks with cleaner trucks, and provide market incentives to encourage private investment that shifts accountability to licensed trucking companies.
The program will require trucks operating at the port to be owned and registered by companies that will be given a five-year permit in order to access the port.
The concessionaires will employ truck drivers and be held accountable for ensuring that all trucks meet the requirements of the Clean Truck Program and ensure that the trucks are licensed and properly maintained.
In November 2007, Mayor Villaraigosa and the Harbor Commission set a five-year timetable for the greening of the 16,000 trucks now serving the ports, requiring all trucks to be replaced or retrofitted to meet 2007 US Environmental Protection Agency diesel truck emissions standards by 2012.
Today, Los Angeles has said enough is enough. When 1,200 lives are cut short every year by toxic emissions coming from the port, we have a moral mandate to act fast and effectively, said Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Quick fixes are not enough, and when we say we want to slash air pollution at the Port of Los Angeles, we mean for the long haul, Villaraigosa said.
Councilwoman Janice Hahn, whose district includes the port, expressed her elation for passage of the Clean Truck Program. The San Pedro Bay Ports are the single largest contributor of diesel emissions and greenhouse gases in Southern California, Hahn pointed out. For too long, it felt as though the only people paying attention to this public health crisis were those of us that live in the Harbor area, even though the statistics clearly show that truck pollution is truly a regional public health risk problem, not just a local issue.
Hahn said that she had been concerned about the plight of the independent truck driver for years. For one, port cargo is carried on the dirtiest trucks in the region, and driven by the lowest paid truckers, who get no benefits, no training, and only get paid by the load. Second, the sheer number of trucks, over 16,000, that pick up containers regularly, have required us to look at this problem from a different perspective.
Working together, we have found a way to not only remove dirty trucks from the operation, but to also address the terrible working conditions being faced by our port truckers, said Hahn. We are finally going to give these truckers the wages and benefits they deserve. This is a great opportunity to create good jobs for people all over Los Angeles so that more people can benefit from our booming international trade industry.
Gwendolyn Young, chair of the board of directors for the American Lung Association of California, applauded Mayor Villaraigosa and the Port of Los Angeles for unanimously voting for the Clean Truck Program.
The science is clear: Pollution from trucks makes people sick. In fact, according to the California Air Resources Board, air pollution from freight transport kills 2,400 Californians each year with 65 percent of the toxic diesel pollution emitted from truck tailpipes.
The American Lung Associations State of the Air 2007 Report gave the Los Angeles region an F grade, with the dubious distinction of having the most polluted skies in the country. However, we give an A grade to the Ports of Los Angeles for their Clean Truck Program.
The public health crisis caused by air pollution requires this bold action, said Young. In requiring trucking companies to act as employers and assume responsibility for upgrading and maintaining low-emission trucks, the LA program will reduce pollution by 80 percent and keep emission levels down.