June 17, 2009

Oakland: Port Vote Paves Way for Cleaner Trucks

By Kwan Booth
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Part of the Bay Area Toxic Tour

Tuesday night saw the end of two years of negotiations between the Port of Oakland, environmentalists, truckers and West Oakland residents, with a vote to reduce toxic emissions from trucks serving the busy shipping center.

The Comprehensive Truck Management Plan aims to reduce the levels of diesel particulates in the air around the port, by banning diesel trucks built before 1994 — as well as newer trucks that lack air filters.

The plan also authorized a registration system for all trucks doing business with the port, and $3 million for independent truck who need to upgrade their vehicles.

However, a vote to implement findings from a study conducted by the consulting firm Beacon Economics was postponed until a later meeting. This includes a controversial recommendation that larger trucking firms hire contractors as employees, thereby making companies responsible for truck upgrades and maintenance.   

During the meeting, both supporters and critics of the program appeared satisfied with its approval, although opinions were still divided on next steps and the best ways to implement findings from the Beacon Study. 

Margaret Gordon, a port commissioner and co-director of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project, said that this is a victory for the clean air movement — and one step towards enacting tougher federal regulations.  

“It’s happening in California and in Oakland because we’ve been giving them the most hell” Gordon said, adding that the ruling only came about after a long series of campaigns and intense discussions.

While it took time to agree on the details, Gordon said she is pleased that the ruling finally establishes firm guidelines that the port can use to regulate the trucking industry.  

“You clean up your truck, or you’ll be out of business,” she said.

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