12/01/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Clean Trucks: One Year Later

As Congress and world leaders continue to grapple with solutions to address climate change, cities across the United States are endeavoring to find workable solutions to address their specific air pollution challenges.

Los Angeles has long been a leader in this area, and today marks the first anniversary of the launch of one of the most successful emissions reductions programs in our country's history - the Port of Los Angeles' Clean Truck Program.

Partnering local government with businesses, we launched the Clean Truck Program to replace all of the 16,800 trucks entering the Los Angeles port each year with "clean trucks" -- trucks that either meet the Environmental Protection Agency's most recent clean emissions standards or run on alternative fuel. We instituted a Day-One ban on all pre-1989 trucks and infused $44 million in incentive funding into our local port trucking sector to bring thousands of EPA-compliant trucks to our port. These incentives have helped generate over $500 million in private investment in almost 2,500 clean trucks, which account for nearly half of an emerging fleet of more than 5,500 clean trucks currently serving our two local ports.

Our program has been so successful in accelerating the replacement of old, diesel-powered trucks that in May our Harbor Commission approved $23 million in additional incentives for companies purchasing alternative-fueled trucks, specifically, natural gas (LNG and CNG) and a new category of electric-powered, zero-tailpipe emissions big rigs.

This type of cooperation required the support of a broad group of stakeholders ranging from the motor carriers and cargo owners who invested in clean fleets, to the environmental, labor and faith-based communities who shared the common goal of finding a workable solution to air pollution. In other words, all parties involved wanted to find a way to effectively address truck pollution while keeping the cargo moving across our docks.

No seaport had ever attempted such an ambitious program with such an audacious goal of replacing an entire drayage fleet with a clean fleet within five years. With the Clean Truck Program, not only have we achieved most of this fleet replacement within one year, but we have created a system to monitor and ensure truck ownership accountability for thousands of big rigs that move the goods through the Port of Los Angeles.

Today, approximately 66 percent of the trucks that haul cargo containers in and out of our cargo terminals are model-year 2007 or newer. This dramatic fleet turnover has delivered an estimated 70 percent reduction for a program that set its target as an 80 percent emissions reduction by 2012. This emissions reduction is equivalent to removing 200,000 automobiles from our freeways in just 10 months time.

Just as importantly, we've shown that taking dramatic action to curb carbon emissions can be good for economic growth. While new truck sales are down 60 percent nationwide, business at truck dealers near the Port of Los Angeles is up by one-third versus last year thanks to the Clean Truck Program. By any standard, this is a truly remarkable accomplishment.

The emissions reductions made possible by the CTP are also helping the San Pedro Bay Ports move forward on massive "green growth" cargo terminal modernization projects that were paralyzed the first half of this decade due to air quality concerns and related legal threats. As a result, thousands of construction jobs are being generated at a time when our regional economy badly needs them. These projects will pave the way for tens of thousands of permanent jobs at the Port and throughout our regional economy in the decades ahead.

The American Trucking Association has threatened our innovative solutions by getting a court order to temporarily block the City's ability to directly ban a motor carrier from bringing dirty trucks in our Port. We are vigorously fighting to protect the right of cities like Los Angeles to improve environmental and security conditions on our own land and protect the sustainability of our investment in clean trucks over the long term.

At the same time, while defending our groundbreaking program, we need to clear the path to allow local governments the means to achieve federal clean air measures and more secure transportation hubs, acknowledging the need for different regional approaches.

Here in Los Angeles, we are proud to be making an important contribution to the national goal of cleaner air and "greener" energy. We urge lawmakers in Washington to update federal law and allow a first-of-its-kind emissions reduction initiative like the Clean Truck Program to flourish.