By  on October 27, 2009

NEW YORK — The controversial Clean Trucks Program at the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach has reached its first anniversary, cleared a major legal hurdle and is well ahead of its goal to reduce air pollution.

The Clean Trucks Program was launched on Oct. 1, 2008, with the goal of lowering air pollution from the more than 16,000 trucks working in the ports by 80 percent by 2012. The program called for a progressive phase out of older model trucks, first banning truck models older than 1988. In February of this year, both Long Beach and Los Angeles started collecting a fee of $35 per 20-foot container for goods that weren’t being moved by clean trucks. This, said the ports, spurred the industry to purchase new trucks faster than expected.

On Sept. 29, the Port of Long Beach said there had been an “unexpectedly rapid turnover of vehicles” during the program’s first year and that the transition to clean trucks would nearly be complete by the Jan. 1, 2010, deadline. By September the port was said to have some 5,000 clean trucks working and moving more than half of the port’s cargo. As a result, the 80 percent reduction in emissions has almost been met two years ahead of schedule.

“The Clean Tucks Program, in just one year, has been extraordinarily successful in meeting its clean-air goals,” said Bob Foster, mayor of Long Beach. “I give a lot of credit to the Port, the trucking industry and importers and exporters for this achievement.”

Despite its success, portions of the program faced legal challenges from several groups, including the Federal Maritime Commission and the American Trucking Association. The FMC dropped its lawsuit in June and the Port of Long Beach reached a settlement with the ATA on Oct. 19.

“ATA has always strongly supported the environmental objectives of the Port and supports strict compliance with and adherence to all safety and security laws and regulations,” said Bill Graves, president and chief executive officer of the ATA. “We never disagreed with Long Beach’s objectives, only with certain provisions of the Concession Agreement which we believed were unnecessary for the accomplishment of those objectives.”

The settlement calls for a new registration agreement that will require trucking companies that work in the port to register their trucks with the port. The companies will also agree to comply with environmental requirements. The Port of Los Angeles was not a part of the settlement.

The announcement drew criticism from the Natural Resources Defense Council, which said the port had caved to the demands of the ATA and weakened the program. Richard D. Steinke, executive director of the Port of Long Beach, responded to those criticisms on Oct. 21, stating the settlement required trucking companies to submit the same level of detail regarding their trucks before being allowed to work in the port.

“The NRDC’s real objection to our program has nothing to do with clean air. By aligning itself with the Teamsters, who have been very public about their campaign to unionize port truckers nationwide, the NRDC is pursuing an agenda beyond air quality,” said Steinke.

“Now, as before, our top priority is achieving cleaner air. But we’re determined to do it in a way that does not compromise the trucking industry’s ability to move cargo,” he said.

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