Managing members of the Northwest Seaport Alliance (NWSA), a marine cargo operating partnership of the ports of Tacoma and Seattle, voted Tuesday to update the Clean Truck Program, requiring trucks, as of April 1, to either have a 2007 or newer engine or equivalent retrofit, or receive a pass that allows access to the international container terminals until owners receive compliant trucks – no later than Dec. 31, 2018, the NWSA said.
In addition, the plan states that the 2007 engine model standard is to remain in place until at least 2025, meaning that truckers will have at least seven years before they’ll be required to upgrade their rigs again.
The unanimous approval by the managing members of the Northwest Seaport Alliance (NWSA) came despite hours of testimony by independent owner-operator truckers who complained that the new regulations were too onerous and would lead them into heavy debt, bankruptcy and/or drive them out of business.
Among the complaints was that unlike previous truck upgrade mandates passed over the past decade, the NWSA was not providing any grant funding to affected truckers.
Independent drivers have argued that as non-employees who are required to pay for work-related expenses out of pocket, they cannot afford the new trucks or retrofitting required under the Clean Truck Program.
“We definitely want to become compliant, but unfortunately, we’re unable to do so without the proper funds,” trucking company operator John Way told the board during the public comment portion of the mid-day meeting, which was held in Seattle. “This April 1, 2018 deadline does not give us enough time to become compliant.”
Many of the truckers that are to be affected participated in a one-day strike where instead of working to haul goods to and from port terminals, they attended the meeting.
More than two dozen testified against the plan before the NWSA managing members.
Of the about 35 people who testified for two minutes each, only a small handful spoke in favor of the Clean Truck Program.
One of them was Tom Bentley of Graham Trucking, who said that pushing the compliance date back wouldn’t be fair to all the companies that have already bought new rigs or retrofitted them in anticipation of the new rules.
“It’s not going to be a level playing field if we continue to let dates slide,” he said. “If you let the date slide even further, all it does is make it not real.”
Members of the collective of non-union drivers distributed flyers last week that called for a one-day walkout.
Port spokesperson Tara Mattina told American Shipper that while 250 people are estimated to have attended the meeting, they represented just a small portion of the overall number of drayage drivers.
“We have about 4,500 trucks that serve the gateway,” she said. “The terminals operated on a normal schedule with no disruptions.”
An estimated 80 percent of the drivers going in and out of the ports are independent owner-operators, according to NWSA data, and only 53 percent of the 4,500 trucks registered to serve the ports meet the 2007 federal emission standards.
The approved grace period of April 1 is actually 90 days after a previously approved Jan. 1, 2018 deadline devised as part of the Northwest Ports Clean Air Strategy (NPCAS).
The NPCAS was developed back in 2007 by the ports of Seattle and Tacoma, in conjunction with the Port of Vancouver USA.
Previous NPCAS targets have included a ban of pre-1994 built heavy-duty trucks at the ports by 2010 and having 80 percent of all drayage trucks meet or surpass 2007 EPA emissions standards by 2015. The latter, however, was in 2013 deemed to be not achievable and pushed back.
As of April 1, trucks entering Seattle container terminals must have a valid RFID tag, one that works for trucks with a 2007 or newer engine. RFID tags for trucks not meeting the 2007 engine or newer standard will be turned away unless the driver has an approved pass.
At the Port of Tacoma, trucks entering container terminals must have a green Clean Truck Program sticker. Trucks with existing yellow stickers are to be turned away unless they have an approved pass.
Under the deferral program, drivers in the process of buying newer trucks will continue to have terminal access to both harbors until Dec. 31, 2018, provided that certain milestones are met. This, the NWSA says, would give operators additional time to procure financing and secure a compliant truck with an engine year 2007 or newer.