Port of Oakland says diesel truck emissions are down 76 percent

By Charlie Morasch, Land Line contributing writer | Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Virtually all trucks serving the Port of Oakland are required to be outfitted with diesel particulate filters – an expensive fix that has cut sharply into truck owners’ pocketbooks. One study says the requirement has cut into emissions levels, too, with black carbon emissions from diesel trucks down 76 percent during the last five years.

When researchers began examining truck emissions at the port in 2009, only 2 percent of trucks at the port were required to have a diesel particulate filter. After the port’s 2011 emissions regulation was enacted, 99 percent of trucks at the port are required to have the filters installed and the average truck age has dropped from 11 to six years.

Spurred in part by California’s Truck and Bus Regulation, many trucks also are using selective catalytic reduction. The changes, researchers say, have created a 53 percent reduction in NOx between 2009 and 2013.

Researchers with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory used a research van outfitted with multiple monitors and a video camera to study emissions at the Port of Oakland. Researchers said the project allowed them to capture specific emissions of each truck that passed the van by linking the measured emissions to license plates attached to the trucks.

According to a story posted to the Berkeley Lab’s website, the van can measure specific concentrations of emissions at one to two times per second by using an air sampler apparatus that hangs above the traffic lane to the van’s right.

“Our study is an important verification of the impacts of California’s air quality regulations,” Thomas Kirchstetter, a scientist with the Berkeley Lab told the lab’s newsletter. “California tends to lead the way in air quality. The technologies we’re evaluating will eventually dominate truck fleets nationwide, so the significance of our study extends far beyond California.”

The research project was supported by the California Air Resources Board and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer says California regulations have focused plenty on emissions from trucks. Emission sources at ports vary from sources like trains and container ships.

“From our perspective, truckers have done more than their part,” Spencer said. “It’s not really a matter of choice for anyone whether or not they want cleaner air, because everybody does. The issues that have come up in California get down to how you implement solutions and whether the remedies actually address the problem.”

As seen during recent labor disputes at West Coast ports, truck drivers and owners often lack the resources to pay for emissions systems or new trucks.
Like many trucking issues, Spencer said, compensation for those behind the wheel influences the driver’s ability to improve the situation.

“The money has to be there to be able to pay for emissions upgrades,” Spencer said.

According to CARB, diesel particulate filters for Class 8 trucks average about $15,000.

OOIDA Foundation research has shown about 77 percent of OOIDA members who are owner-operators drive trucks that are 2006 and older and don’t meet California’s Truck and Bus Rule requirements. That percentage is consistent with national estimates of registered Class 8 diesel trucks.

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