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SOKHA PEOU, a truck driver for Joint Intermodal Logistic, listens as Port of Oakland Commission President Anthony Batarse speaks about the port Truck Replacement Program. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, is in the background.
OAKLAND — It wasn't so much the environment that led Tuan Phan to a recent Port of Oakland-sponsored picnic, advertising a new truck replacement program.

It was the $1,000 citations from the California Highway Patrol and countless repair jobs that had Phan filling out a novel-sized application for a $31,000 grant to buy a new rig.

But it was the environment that benefited when Phan qualified as the first trucker to get a new rig under the port's truck replacement program.

"My truck was too old, and they wanted to take it away and give me a new one?" Phan said Thursday. "Yes, I would try that."

While Phan's desire to participate was not born of an idealistic view to save the environment, it serves as a perfect example of why the port's new replacement program is beginning to attract the skeptical truckers other programs chased away.

Spawned from failed efforts to clean diesel emissions at the port, the new program gives truckers money to replace pre-1990 built trucks with new models made after 2000.

The newer trucks have cleaner burning engines which could result in emissions having 45 percent less nitrogen oxide and 80 percent less diesel particulate.

But they also have newer bodies, less need forrepairs and higher gas mileage, which gets truckers excited.


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"The key is that it makes a lot of sense for these drivers as well," said Tim Leong, a port environmental scientist. "It took some time, but the program has evolved."

Past ideas to clean trucks failed because they failed to take into account truck driver needs.

Original ideas called for truck engines to be replaced but not the bodies.

While the idea worked for port yard equipment, such as forklifts, it did not work for larger trucks.

Since retrofitting an engine could take a truck off the road for as long as a month, truckers chose to stick with their old engines. It was not worth the financial hardship to get a cleaner engine.

In addition, the engine replacement resulted in trucks having $25,000 engines but $5,000 bodies.

"There is a lot more than engines that can go wrong with these trucks," said Bill Aboudi, AB Trucking owner. "For the amount of money you would put in, both the driver and the government, it was just worth it to get a new truck."

The port learned that lesson after its truck engine replacement program failed.

Instead, the port agreed to spend $2 million on the replacement project. The money comes from a $8.9 million mitigation fund the port was forced to create a decade ago when it began to expand its maritime terminals.

The program gives truckers up to $40,000 to purchase a new rig. The amount of money depends on how many containers a trucker transports from the port and what type of truck the driver plans to buy.

In return, the driver is responsible for sales tax and registration.

Since the program began last year, the port has replaced 15 older trucks and hopes to replace about 80 before the $2 million fund is spent.

About 2,000 trucks regularly access the port for business.

"What you see here today might appear like a minimal step ... but it is a step," said Harold Jones, port's deputy executive director for external affairs. "Activities at a busy seaport are the cause of a number of environmental impacts. These impacts cannot be ignored."