By Charlie Morasch, Land Line contributing writer
For months, environmental staffers at the city of Baltimore appeared to be heading toward a comprehensive clean truck program like one enforced at the Port of Long Beach.
Baltimore prepared a progressive ban on older trucks similar to Long Beach’s port program as part of Baltimore’s planned Climate Action Plan.
The plan changed, however, when city sustainability staffers met with trucking industry workers and other stakeholders Monday, July 9.
During the meeting, the Maryland Motor Truck Association and other groups explained the number of owner-operators who make port calls in Baltimore, and described the economic hardship small-business owners would face from an aggressive truck component in the Climate Action Plan.
The city heard the complaints loud and clear, according to Beth Strommen, director of the Baltimore Office of Sustainability, which is overseeing the Climate Action Plan.
“We’re not putting any recommendations in the plan that are not possible to do,” Strommen told Land Line Magazine. “You’re not going to accomplish your goal for reducing greenhouse gas emission by doing that.”
Specifically, Strommen said the city’s Sustainability Department is working to change a portion of the Climate Action Plan draft under the heading “Promote Fuel Efficient Trucking in the Port of Baltimore.”
The section says the city could establish fees and truck standards similar to the Port of Long Beach during a 2-3 year timeframe.
“What we didn’t understand when we first wrote it is just how many independent truckers there are,” Strommen said. “Now that we have that feedback, we’re going to have to extensively modify the recommendation.”
Some say comparing L.A.-area ports and Baltimore may be comparing apples and oranges.
Louis Campion, president of the Maryland Motor Truck Association, said Baltimore shouldn’t develop a plan based on a California port due to several key differences in trucking demographics.
Campion referenced California Air Resources Board studies that show average truck ages of 13 years for trucks visiting ports in California. Trucks stopping at the Port of Baltimore, he said, are about nine years old.
Additionally, Campion said, trucks in Baltimore idle far less than trucks stopping in California, with most trucks averaging 30 minute turn times in Baltimore. Only 27 percent of trucks at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are turned in 30 minutes, Campion said.
“Most older trucks are owned by independent businessmen,” Campion said. “They’re the ones who are most gravely harmed in an economic downturn, and who typically lack the same resources a fleet has for upgrading equipment. We want to put that entrepreneur under a greater stress? It just seems there are other approaches that might be more reasonable.”
Reached Tuesday, Campion was preparing comments to send to Baltimore about the proposed Clean Truck Program. Baltimore, he said, should look at the voluntary, incentive-based approaches used by ports in South Carolina.
“We would oppose efforts that provide a mandatory prohibition on older trucks entering the port,” Campion said.
The proposed Clean Truck Program is part of Baltimore’s city-wide Climate Action Plan. The trucking portion of the plan is scheduled to be discussed at three different city government levels between late July and September. The Baltimore City Council will consider the program for formal adoption after those three meetings, Strommen said.
“It’s got a ways to go,” Strommen said.
To comment on the Climate Action Plan and the trucking portion of the plan, send an email to email@example.com. More information on the plan is available here.