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Truck Report Plans for Zero-Emissions Future

Ambitious goals prompt look at technology, infrastructure, costs

May 1, 2019


To further reduce port truck pollution, the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles are closely monitoring the development of new cleaner truck technologies and assessing the feasibility of the options available.

A new study for the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, the 2018 Feasibility Assessment for Drayage Trucks, represents a snapshot of the state of heavy-duty truck engine technology at this time. Released in early April, the 134-page report evaluates the commercial availability, technical viability, operational feasibility, availability of fuel and fueling infrastructure, and costs of owning and operating near-zero and zero emissions port trucks.

The assessment provides the technical information needed to craft strategies to achieve the ports’ ultimate goal of transitioning drayage trucks to a zero-emissions fleet by 2035, said Heather Tomley, acting managing director of the Port of Long Beach Planning and Environmental Affairs Bureau.

“The study identifies where we are today and where we need to focus our efforts on additional development to keep moving the needle toward zero,” Tomley said. “By establishing what technology is available now and what’s likely to be available in the future, the study sets the stage for the ports to execute near-term and long-term clean truck initiatives to reach our ultimate clean air goal.”

The big picture

Eliminating all air pollution from drayage trucks is a tall order. But so was reining in emissions from all port-related sources – ships, trains, harbor craft and terminal equipment, in addition to trucks – when the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles adopted their original Clean Air Action Plan in 2006.

More than a decade of the joint clean air strategies led to dramatic results in slashing primary air pollutants from all sources, with an 87% reduction of diesel particulate matter, a 58% reduction of nitrogen oxides or NOx, and a 97% reduction of sulfur oxides since 2005. However, the ports have much more work to do in reducing greenhouse gases, which contribute to climate change. To tackle this challenge, the ports added new targets of reducing GHGs 40% below 1990 levels by 2030 and 80% below 1990 levels by 2050 in the 2017 CAAP Update.

“Trucks are responsible for about 40% of GHG emissions port-wide, so reducing their emissions is a top priority,” Tomley said.

Making near-term progress

No viable technology for emissions-free trucks is currently market-ready today. The technology that is furthest along is the ultra low-NOx natural gas-fueled truck, a near-zero emissions option that has just recently started to be deployed. These trucks offer the closest alternative in terms of operations to current diesel models, but additional fueling infrastructure is needed to support larger-scale deployments. All leading original equipment truck manufacturers offer Class 8 models with the near-zero emissions 12-liter Cummins Westport ISX12N engine. These trucks emit 90% less NOx than the current engine emissions standard established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Another technology nearing – but not yet meeting – technical and commercial viability is the battery-electric engine. The feasibility study found zero emissions battery-electric trucks can outperform diesel trucks on power and torque, but still have range and weight limitations; sufficient fast-charging infrastructure is not widely available; and the cost of the battery-electric Class 8 truck far exceeds the diesel and natural gas models. Three more alternatives – zero emissions fuel cell, near-zero emissions hybrid-electric, and near-zero emissions diesel internal combustion engines – do not currently meet the basic criteria for technical viability and commercial readiness, nor do they appear to be on a market-ready path by 2021.

"In addition to being clean, the technology must support operational excellence," said Port Executive Director Mario Cordero. "Maintaining and enhancing the top-quality service our customers rely on goes hand in hand with our drive to zero emissions."

The results of the feasibility study pave the way the ports to take the next step under the Clean Trucks Program outlined in the 2017 CAAP Update: develop a Clean Truck Fund rate. Other key factors are an evaluation of economic considerations of imposing the rate, which will be included in the ports’ Truck Rate Study to be released this summer, and progress by the California Air Resources Board in establishing a near-zero emissions manufacturing standard and a definition of zero emissions trucks. 

As envisioned, the rate would be paid by the beneficial cargo owners for all trucks hauling loaded containers in and out of the ports, with exemptions for trucks that meet zero or near-zero standards. Any money collected would support further progress on the Clean Trucks Program, including paying for initiatives that speed up fleet turnover to near-zero and zero emissions trucks.

The ports will begin discussions with stakeholders about the establishment of the Clean Truck Fund rate in the next few months to gather input on the potential structure and schedule for the rate. The rate is due to be proposed to the governing board of both ports later this year for implementation in 2020.

A similar financial incentive program expedited the turnover of older dirty trucks under the original CAAP, resulting in 100% of the fleet consisting of 2007 EPA-compliant trucks or newer by 2012, two full years before the state mandated the requirement. Back then, however, the ports did not conduct a feasibility study because the strategy focused on using trucks that met existing federal emission standards. Today, the ports are pursuing even cleaner technologies whose engine standards have yet to be adopted.

The bigger picture

In addition to providing a snapshot of today’s options, the new report offers a baseline for future feasibility assessments the ports will conduct at least every three years. Separately, the ports are evaluating the feasibility of near-zero and zero emissions technology for terminal equipment.

Another near-term strategy is requiring new trucks entering port service to meet cleanest available emissions performance by being model year 2014 or newer. The requirement, which took effect Oct. 1, 2018, applies only to new trucks joining the Port Drayage Truck Registry (PDTR). Under state law, by January 1, 2023, all trucks in the state must meet the 2010 EPA engine standards. Under the 2017 CAAP Update, the ports have proposed that new trucks entering the PDTR starting in 2023 will need to have near-zero emissions or cleaner engines.

Additionally, the ports are working with CARB to pilot a state heavy-duty truck smog check program to improve drayage truck performance and repair rates and retire noncompliant trucks with excessive emissions.

Advancing multiple technology demonstrations in and around the ports also supports the drive to near-zero and zero emissions truck engines. While the push to zero emissions remains aggressive, the 2017 CAAP Update recognizes the need to be realistic about the status of these technologies and not unduly burdensome to the trucking industry, drivers and other partners in the process, Tomley said.

“Our ultimate success lies in taking a balanced approach,” she said. “We only get to zero working together.” 

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