Ports begin 'Clean Trucks' plan

The oldest and dirtiest diesel trucks that move cargo at the harbors are banned starting Wednesday as the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles get their "Clean Trucks" program underway. KPCC's Molly Peterson reports preparations have been down to the wire.

Molly Peterson: For months, the port complex has planned to kick out the worst polluting trucks. Officials are requiring cargo companies to use trucks built within the last 20 years. The plan's hit some speed bumps. A national trucking lobby has challenged it in court. The Federal Maritime Commission is investigating its legality. But for now, Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster says he expects traffic to keep flowing.

Bob Foster: Right now, we have about 750 trucking companies signed up, operating 15,000 trucks. And then we've got a lot in the last couple of weeks. And they'll be clearly enough to work in the port and move the goods.

Peterson: Those trucks will carry stickers, different ones for each port, to identify them as up-to-date. More stringent truck I.D.'s and plans to charge companies pollution fees on containers will wait a few weeks while the ports finish putting together a computerized system. Port of L.A. executive director Geraldine Knatz admits the Clean Trucks program is getting a soft launch.

Geraldine Knatz: Everything has to ramp up. You know, even what we're seeing just hour by hour as the number of stickers appearing on the trucks is increasing. People tend to wait 'til the last minute to do things.

Peterson: In the program's early stages, Knatz and Foster say they expect port staff to educate drivers about the system as they approach cargo terminals. The state's air resources board attributes 1,200 deaths a year to port pollution in California, and harbor managers say they're confident that the work to reduce pollution from cargo trucks will pay off.