By Sandre Swanson and Chris Lytle, Oakland Tribune
The city and Port of Oakland have been working for several months with a group of independent truckers who face a Jan. 1 deadline to replace their rigs to meet state air quality regulations that will allow residents to breathe easier. We are writing to update the public on this important issue.
Truckers work hard, long hours and help make Oakland the fifth busiest container seaport in the United States, as well as a major export gateway and job generator for our region.
Truckers have raised concerns we’re committed to addressing, including issues with compensation and long wait times to get into port terminals.
The port has established a working group in which all the stakeholders are seeking solutions together. We also brought industry and regulatory leaders to the table to meet with the truckers.
At the same time, our commitment to California clean-air standards is unwavering. Residents and workers in West Oakland have long faced serious health issues associated with the air they breathe.
Especially at risk are our most vulnerable residents, including seniors and children.
Together we have already reduced diesel particulate emissions from port trucks by 88 percent since 2005, but there’s more to be done. To further protect our residents and our environment, we must ensure that every truck that does business at the port continues to meet the emissions standards set five years ago.
State and federal agencies have allowed multiple deadline extensions and are not offering more.
The port and other regional and state agencies have made available $38 million in funding to help truckers achieve these upgrades, and most of them have upgraded already. We continue to pursue solutions for all truckers:
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District is ready to provide grants to replace as many as 100 trucks for on-road service. (Trucks not serving ports have a few more years to comply with the latest clean air rules).
The California Air Resources Board is offering loan guarantees for truckers who need financial assistance to upgrade their trucks.
Some shipping companies have increased fees and payments to help pay for upgrades. We are asking the industry to continue to negotiate.
And we have worked to reduce truck turnaround times so that there are less emissions from idling trucks.
Now a few hundred truckers are announcing illegal work stoppage plans that would hurt the other estimated 85 percent of truck owners at the port who have already invested in upgrading their rigs. Those who made the upgrades must be able to work to pay off that investment.
Stoppage would also slow commerce and damage perishable goods for shippers who employ thousands of people. And it would hurt the port itself, which is working to grow economic opportunities for the whole region.
We will continue to look for more options to help, but we cannot allow illegal work blockages at the port. Together, we hope we can resolve these issues for the good of all.
Sandre Swanson is deputy mayor of Oakland and Chris Lytle is director of the Port of Oakland