Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, right and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti talk next to Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero and Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka at a press conference in the Port of Long Beach to launch the new Clean Truck Fund rate in Long Beach Friday, April 1, 2022. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

The Port of Long Beach’s latest efforts to secure a zero-emission future has gotten off to a smooth start, port officials say.

Among other updates presented at the Clean Air Action Plan stakeholder meeting this week, the San Pedro Bay ports—which consist of the Port of Long Beach and Port of Los Angeles—announced that just under $8 million has been collected from the recently implemented clean truck fee.

The clean truck fee—which the ports began collecting on April 1—is meant to encourage the transition to zero-emission goods movement. As it stands, cargo owners who use diesel trucks to transport their goods in and out of the port complex are charged $10 per 20-foot-equivalent unit—the standard measure for cargo containers—and $20 for every 40-foot-equivalent or larger unit.

These fees are issued to the cargo owners, and the Port of Long Beach received about half of the $8 million total that has been collected from the fee over its first few months. For port officials, the number reflects a smooth start for the fee program.

“It is safe to say we are trending towards our $90 million [per year] estimate for both ports,” Port of Los Angeles Environmental Affairs Officer Tim DeMoss said during the June 1 meeting.

Both the Port of Long Beach and Port of Los Angeles came together in 2006 to aim for a zero-emission future at the port. The result of this effort was the Clean Air Action Plan, whose current goal is to implement zero-emission infrastructure at the ports by 2030.

Incentivizing the transition away from diesel through the clean truck fee is just one of many programs associated with the plan. Most of the money the Port of Long Beach will receive from the first year of the fund will go into funding vouchers to help support the purchase of zero emission trucks, with about 65% of funds allocated to those purchases.

This money will complement the Hybrid and Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Project (HVIP) run by the California Air Resources Board, which already gives point-of-sale vouchers to those interested in purchasing low- and zero-emission vehicles in the state.

The Port of Los Angeles already has an agreement with CARB to use the HVIP system to issue its own vouchers, and the Port of Long Beach is working on cementing a similar agreement, with vouchers expected to be issued in Long Beach later this year.

About a quarter of the money from the clean truck fee’s first year will be used to build charging stations and hydrogen-fueling stations to ensure drivers can keep their vehicles well charged and maintained no matter their location.

Other programs are also in the works. About 10% of the revenue received from the fee will go toward zero-emission pilot project deployments and demonstrations. The port has several demonstrations—where zero-emission equipment is brought in and tested in limited service—to get a better understanding of the technology’s potential operational benefits, as well as any problems and bugs that need to be addressed.

For example, testing on electric battery trucks in Oakland—whose port is partnered with the San Pedro Bay ports—uncovered an issue with power supply. A fix was applied soon after, which patched up most of the major issues with the vehicles.

“We focus on these demonstrations so that we can continue improving those technologies and move towards our goal,” Port of Long Beach Managing Director of Planning and Environmental Affairs Heather Tomley said.

Before all of these allocations are doled out, though, a flat amount of $1 million will be taken from the fund to fund a “Kickstart Incentive Program,” which will promote the deployment of low-emission vehicles by providing money to co-fund the purchase of up to 10 low-emission drayage trucks.

And beyond these incentives, many drivers will soon be legally required to replace their vehicles. CARB’s Truck and Bus Regulation program will mandate that all heavy diesel vehicles on the road have a 2010 or later model engine by the start of 2023, which will phase out about 5,200 trucks across both ports.

The regulations are part of a larger effort to phase out older vehicles in preparation for a zero-emission fleet, a process that Port of Long Beach started in 2008 as part of its Clean Truck Program. The port says this gradual phasing out of older, more polluting trucks has helped reduce diesel emissions by 97% since 2005.

There is no established plan for spending the second year of funds from the clean truck fee, but the Port of Los Angeles has established five general buckets for the money: zero-emission truck vouchers, zero-emission infrastructure, small-fleet zero-emission truck deployment, technology advancement projects and unsolicited proposals. The Port of Long Beach, meanwhile, has not yet released any information on potential plans for clean truck fee revenue in the future.

Christian May-Suzuki

Christian May-Suzuki is a reporter at the Long Beach Business Journal.