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June 16, 2016   |   Diesel Technology Forum

Policy Insider

Clean Air and Booming Trade Go Hand in Hand

As more and more freight is expected to move through our ports, air quality is expected to improve largely through the introduction of clean diesel technologies.

According to the American Association of Port Authorities, U.S. ports are expected to see a building boom over the next few years. Between 2016 and 2020, port executives are anticipating about $160 billion in infrastructure investments to upgrade facilities that move imports and exports. This planned investment is to facilitate booming trade that has already occurred – the value of freight moving through ports has almost doubled since 2000 – and to accommodate the anticipated strong growth in exports and imports moving through ports.

As more and more freight is expected to move through our ports, air quality is expected to improve largely through the introduction of clean diesel technologies. In fact, there is a direct relationship between rising cargo volumes and improving air quality. One of the iconic ports in the U.S. is the enormous port of Los Angeles and Long Beach. The twin ports together cover over 10,000 acres and 68 miles of waterfront and rank in the top 10 container ports in the world. The Port of Los Angeles, in its inventory of port emissions, estimates that container traffic has increased by 11 percent while emissions of particulate matter has fallen by 84 percent in the 10 years between 2005 and 2014.

Nowhere has this improvement in air quality been more pronounced than the reduction in emissions attributable to the fleet of roughly 16,000 harbor trucks than enter and exit marine terminals every day. According to the Port of Los Angeles’ emissions inventory, particulate matter emissions attributable to these trucks have fallen by 97 percent over the ten year period from 2005 to 2014.

Clean diesel technology is largely to thank for this impressive reduction. Beginning in 2012, both the ports of L.A. and Long Beach required all trucks entering marine terminals to meet the near-zero emissions standard established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for model year 2007.  Trucks deployed with technology to meet this stringent engine standard result in 98 percent less emissions of particulates than a truck manufactured in 1988. In fact, 9 out of 10 trucks in service in the massive L.A.-Long Beach port complex are powered with a clean diesel engine that meets this standard.

Other engines that power other vehicles and equipment in service in the port complex are also predominantly diesel. The fleet of marine workboats such as tugs and service vessels and locomotives that move cargo are exclusively powered by diesel engines and fuel. The Port of L.A. also estimates that 66 percent of the cargo handling equipment that loads, moves and shuttles cargo in the port is powered by a diesel engine. Similar near-zero emissions standards established for commercial vehicles, including drayage trucks, are now required of new engines that power this equipment.  Beginning in 2014, engines that power this equipment must meet the “Tier 4”standards resulting in a 95 percent reduction in emissions, depending on the horsepower range. Beginning in 2015, much larger engines that power marine workboats and locomotives must meet this Tier 4 standard. The air quality in and around the massive port complex is expected to improve as more of this off-road equipment is replaced with new or newer diesel engines.

One of the benefits of the diesel platform is its durability and longevity. When properly maintained, diesel engines may last generations - even lifetimes.  A variety of federal, state and port programs offer the owners of older diesel engines with incentive funding to encourage the replacement of older diesel engines with new or newer engines, retrofit technologies and sometimes new equipment. One of the most successful national programs to provide incentive funding is the Diesel Emission Reduction program managed by U.S. EPA. Since funding for the program began in 2008, almost $160 million has been provided for the retrofit, repower or replacement of older equipment specifically in port applications. Other states and even ports offer similar programs to encourage the adoption of the latest clean technologies to improve air quality for residents near port facilities.

As ports around the country plan for the future by expanding facilities, widely available clean diesel technologies are ready to deliver cargo and clean air.  Thanks to a variety of funding programs, owners of older diesel vehicles and equipment have access to incentive programs to purchase the latest clean diesel technology.

Click here for more information concerning clean diesel at work in ports around the country.   


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Ezra Finkin
Director, Policy

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