Near-Zero-Emissions Heavy Duty Trucks Now Hauling Freight At Southern California Ports

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Almost a half trillion dollars worth of goods are imported in the US through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach every year. Almost all the containers that arrive at those ports are hauled relatively short distances to freight distribution facilities located inland by special purpose drayage trucks designed specifically for such short-haul work. At those freight terminals, the containers are hooked up to the long distance tractors that will deliver them to every part of America.

near zero emissions diesel truck
Near zero emissions drayage truck operated by Total Transportation Systems.

With so much cargo coming in, tens of thousands of trips between the ports and the terminals take place all day every day. With rare exceptions, all those drayage trucks are equipped with diesel engines that spew out tremendous quantities of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur oxide emissions, making the air in the vicinity more polluted than in any other area of the country.

To reduce that air pollution, the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach formed the Clean Air Action Plan in 2006. It was a comprehensive program designed to curb emissions from ships, tug boats, cargo cranes. and drayage trucks, almost all of which are powered by diesel engines.

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In 2008, the ports unveiled the Clean Trucks Program which began by banning all trucks from the ports that were manufactured prior to 1989. Since then, the program has been upgraded several times. In 2012, it brought the ban on older trucks forward to exclude any vehicles manufactured before 2007.

On October 1, the plan will be updated once again to exclude any trucks made before 2014. The goal is to make all transportation within the South Coast Air Quality Management District, which includes both ports, zero emissions by 2035. Since its beginning, the CAAP has reduced the amount of particulates emitted by 85%, nitrogen oxides by 50%, and sulfur oxides by 95% according to Advanced Clean Transportation News.

Recently, 6 freight hauling companies have started using 22 new drayage trucks equipped with near-zero-emissions diesel engines manufactured by Cummins Westport. The ISX12N engines run on renewable natural gas. The combination of clean burning engines and low-carbon fuel results in the lowest diesel emissions in America. Emissions from these engines are 90% lower than the current diesel emissions standards mandated by the California Air Resources Board and the EPA (what’s left of it.) The engines are being installed in trucks manufactured by Peterbilt, Freightliner, and Kenworth.

Renewable natural gas is “an ultra-clean and ultra-low-carbon natural gas alternative made from the methane that is captured when waste from food scraps, animal manure, sewage and other organic sources is broken down, captured and refined. RNG has the lowest carbon intensity rating of key transportation fuels when comparing the well-to-wheels greenhouse gas (GHGs) emissions of various fuels in heavy-duty trucking applications,” says ACT News.

Vic LaRosa, President of Total Transportation Services, says, “TTSI has now been testing the new CWI natural gas engines since last year and have found that they work terrifically. We have run the trucks hard — in and out of the ports for long hours in all kinds of conditions — and have had no issues. TTSI is committed to going above and beyond what we can towards a more sustainable future and transitioning to renewable natural gas has made it easy.”

Someday, electric trucks from Tesla and other manufacturers will end the scourge of emissions from heavy duty diesel engines. Until then, near-zero-emissions diesel engines are an important step forward on the road to a pollution-free future.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."

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