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It pays to drive green

December 8, 2008 |  4:17 pm


One hundred thirty-two natural-gas-fueled big rigs rumbled into service at the nation's largest port complex Monday as part of a landmark clean-truck program that aims to clear local skies by overhauling the region's fleet of 16,800 old and dirty diesel trucks.

An additional 100 of the near-zero-emission LNG trucks are earmarked for deployment to the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in the coming months.

The largest delivery of LNG trucks in the nation's history was made by Daimler Trucks North America under a partnership involving the Environmental Protection Agency, the California Air Resources Board, the Southern California Air Quality Management District and California Cartage Co.

"Each tractor will reduce the use of imported oil by 500 barrels per year," Daimler Trucks President and CEO Chris Patterson said in a statement. "At 132 Cal Cartage tractors plus 100 additional natural gas trucks to be operated by the ports, that reduces our dependency on foreign by more than 116,000 barrels annually."

Diesel pollution is responsible for an estimated 4,500 premature deaths, 71,000 cases of asthma and lower-respiratory symptoms and more than 600 hospitalizations for heart disease annually, according to state health officials. About half of all Californians live within one mile of a diesel hot spot with elevated cancer risk.

Arrival of the clean rigs will help the ports meet stricter California emissions standards expected in 2010.

They also come after U.S. District Judge Richard Leon's refusal to rule until 2009 on the Federal Maritime Commission's challenge to the clean-truck program. By that time, President-elect Barack Obama may well have appointed new commissioners to the agency, which has the right to intervene when it believes unfair competitive restrictions or unduly expensive mandates have been placed on international commerce.

-- Louis Sahagun

Photo credit: Daimler Trucks North America