Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti reacts after taking an electric tractor-trailer for a spin around the parking lot after a press conference at 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 San Pedro Bay Ports today began implementing the long-planned clean truck fee to further their sustainability efforts.

Under the Clean Truck Fund Rate program, cargo that is not being transported on zero-emission vehicles is subject to the tariff, which is $10 per 20-foot-equivalent unit—the standard measurement for shipped cargo—and $20 for every container that is larger than that.

The fee, which will be charged to the companies that own the shipments, is expected to generate $90 million in the first 12 months, according to port officials. Money generated from the fee will be used to purchase newer zero-emission vehicles, which will accelerate the ports’ ability to phase out older trucks.

“We are here to celebrate a first-of-its-kind program that enables us to convert our fleet to zero-emission trucks that will come in and out of our ports,” Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said during a Friday press conference.

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, right and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti talk next to Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka, left, and Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero 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 fee is part of the Clean Truck Program in the ports’ Clean Air Action Plan. The tariffs were officially approved in November 2021.

“This is another important step in our commitment to CAAP and our broader climate efforts,” Garcia said.

Zero-emission trucks and the cargo they transport are entirely spared from the fee, but natural gas powered trucks that emit low amounts of nitrogen oxides—also known as low NOx trucks—were also given an exemption from the fee that will last over a decade in Long Beach.

That decision came with opposition and controversy after a joint investigation by the Los Angeles Times and news outlet Floodlight in partnership with the Guardian revealed that gas companies paid residents to advocate for the exemption.

The Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners in May voted in favor of making the natural gas truck exception permanent, but public pushback forced both ports to add sunsets to the exemptions.

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, right and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti arrive at a press conference at 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 ports are launching their programs separately, and one of the differences is seen in the way the exemption is treated. The Port of Long Beach has stricter requirements for the low-NOx exemption, and the two ports sunset their low-NOx exemptions at different times.

For the Port of Long Beach, exemptions will last until either Dec. 31, 2034 or Dec. 31, 2037, depending on when the vehicle was purchased and registered with the Port Drayage Truck Registry. The Port of Los Angeles will sunset its exemption on Dec. 31, 2027.

While the fee doesn’t directly affect individual drivers, the Harbor Trucking Association CEO Matt Schrap said that there is a fear that cargo owners will pass the costs down onto drivers.

“It really just depends on the relationship with the [shipment company],” Schrap said over the phone.

To attempt to alleviate this fear from truckers, the Long Beach Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners President Steven Neal said that there is language in the fund that prohibits this from happening, and the Port of Los Angeles has an anonymous reporting system for truckers to use if the fee is being passed onto them.

“The truckers will not pay this fee,” Neal said.

The association’s other major concern revolves around infrastructure—particularly the challenge of acquiring and charging these types of trucks.

“If we don’t have adequate charging stations, these [vehicles] will turn into glorified yard art,” Schrap said.

An overview of the Clean Truck Fund Rate program, meanwhile, says that technology assessments will be conducted as needed, and the ports will “collaborate with government agencies as well as private entities” to evaluate the need for new infrastructure.

“We recognize that zero-emissions vehicles need a support structure, that’s why the Clean Truck Fund spending plan is designed to devote a substantial portion of the initial monies towards that infrastructure,” Port of Long Beach Director of Environmental Planning Matt Arms said by email. “We’re working with our leadership to seek state and federal funding for support infrastructure as well.”

Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero talks during 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.

Overall, port officials said they see the implementation of this fee as a critical moment for their sustainability efforts.

“I am confident that we will realize our goals,” Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero said, “and move this industry into a zero-emission future.”

Christian May-Suzuki

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