Hundreds of 1988-and-older trucks have been banned since October as part of a plan to clean up dirty air around the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, according to the Los Angeles Times.

For more than a decade, residents of surrounding neighborhoods have complained about pollution from the ports, and 1,200 annual premature deaths have been linked to the ports' air pollution problems. But in October, the ports launched the cleanup, and it's beginning to have a beneficial effect.

Trucks that don't meet 2007 air pollution standards began paying a $70 fee last week each time they haul cargo to and from the ports. This week, the first of a fleet of electric trucks will debut. And within three years, most ships will be able to plug into the ports' electrical grid and turn off their exhaust-emitting diesel engines. 

The effort has impressed the National Resources Defense Council, one of the ports' toughest critics. It praised the step in October to remove about 2,000 trucks that were at least 20 years old. As a result, the group estimated that diesel particulates emissions may have been reduced 50 percent. 

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said the new fee collection "marks a milestone in our efforts to clean up the ports as we roll ahead with taking 16,800 dirty-diesel trucks off the road for good." 

About 3,000 new clean diesel trucks have already joined the fleet, which is well above the 2,000 new trucks both ports said that they had hoped to have in place by now. 


Other cleanup efforts underway include:

  • Ports have earmarked more than $20 million in incentives that are encouraging more than a dozen of the world's biggest shipping lines to switch to clean-burning fuels as they approach Southern California. 
  • Nearby harbor areas have also become testing grounds for the latest technology, such as compressed natural gas trucks that will be moving cargo containers between the San Pedro Bay ports and nearby freight-consolidation yards. 
  • Los Angeles and Long Beach have become new technology incubators, with seed money for projects such as the world's first electric-diesel hybrid tugboat, which was delivered this month. That includes Balqon Corp., the electric truck manufacturer.

On Feb. 18, officials launched an effort to assess a $70 fee on all trucks that do not meet 2007 air pollution standards each time they haul cargo containers to and from the ports.

The fees will be used to help subsidize truckers so that they can lease from the port new low-emissions diesel or natural gas trucks. Under the plan that is expected to start in the coming weeks, truckers would pay 50 percent to 60 percent of the truck leases and the fees would cover the rest, plus maintenance.

The timing is crucial because Dec. 31 is the next deadline for eliminating or retrofitting 2003 and older trucks.

Retailers have threatened to take their business elsewhere, but it is not clear how much business might have been lost. Lawsuits filed by the American Trucking Association and the Federal Maritime Commission to block various parts of the clean truck program are pending.