Daily Breeze

April 22, 2005

Truck grant legislation is added to energy bill
Rep. Millender-McDonald is backing legislation to give trucking firms incentives to retire or retrofit older trucks in hopes of cutting pollution.

By Toby Eckert
Copley News Service

WASHINGTON -- Citing the pollution created by freight haulers around the Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex, South Bay Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald advanced legislation Thursday that would encourage trucking companies to retire older trucks that emit the most exhaust.

The legislation, added to a larger energy bill that passed the House, would authorize a $100 million grant program that companies could use to replace older trucks with newer, less-polluting rigs or to retrofit older trucks with pollution-control devices.

State or local governments would administer the grants. Ports and "other major hauling operations" would get priority under the legislation.

During debate on the bill, Millender-McDonald noted that on the Long Beach (710) Freeway "there are 34,000 truck port trips per day."

"By 2010, that number is expected to almost triple to 91,000 per day," said the Carson Democrat. "Sadly, many of these trucks are older and the worst polluters."

Despite progress on fuel efficiency and pollution controls in recent years, Millender-McDonald noted that there are more than 30,000 heavy-duty trucks on U.S. highways -- 35 percent of the total fleet -- that are more than 10 years old. They are among the biggest contributors to ozone and particulate pollution in the country, she said.

"For each older truck taken off the road, we reduce 5 tons of pollutants over five years," she said.

The trucking industry supports the move. Glen Kedzie, environmental counsel for the American Trucking Association, said the EPA has been limited in what it can do to encourage replacement or retrofitting of older trucks on a voluntary basis.

"Because the trucks depreciate over the years and the cost of the pollution equipment, it won't happen without the financial incentive. Many times these trucks are operated by small businesses," he said.

"Hopefully, this (legislation) will kick start the retrofit programs around the country."

The federal initiative would be similar to the Los Angeles-area Gateway Cities Clean Air Program, which has helped scrap 322 trucks made before model year 1986 at a cost of more than $7 million. A typical grant is $20,000 to $25,000 under the program, which started in 2002.

The Gateway Cities program would be eligible for funding under the initiative proposed by Millender-McDonald.

Her legislation would create grants for companies to replace old trucks or install emissions-control equipment, for the model year 1998 or earlier. The replacement trucks must operate on ultra-low-sulfur diesel, where available.

Grant recipients would have to cover at least 5 percent of the total cost of retrofitting a truck with new emission controls.

The energy bill is still in the early stages of the legislative process. It is uncertain whether it will pass Congress and be sent to President Bush. Millender-McDonald's program would also require a separate appropriation.

"This is a personal concern of mine," she said. "Southern California suffers from some of the worst air quality in the country due to idling trucks."