Searchable Goods Movement Timeline

Welcome to the METRANS Goods Movement Timeline. This is a searchable timeline of activities tied to goods movement, logistics and international trade based upon items from the popular press.

Given our location and the importance of this region as an international trade gateway, many of the entries pertain to Southern California. We do however draw from state and national press as well. Some articles' links may have expired, or you may have to pay a fee or register on the Web site where they originally appeared to access the complete article. Our goal however is to provide the researcher with enough information to track significant events over time as they have occurred in key areas like legislation, finance, and security.

This timeline grew out of timelines initially developed for METRANS research projects in the area of goods movement. Earlier entries (before 2005) were therefore not prepared with a searchable database in mind and will be less detailed. We hope, however, that they remain a useful resource.

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Mar 13, 2017

How local ports reduced pollution but lost trust among truck drivers along the way

Online Edition

More than cars, power plants, or even refineries, heavy duty diesel trucks are the reason why greater Los Angeles has never met federal smog standards.

So nine years ago, the area’s twin ports – Los Angeles and Long Beach – began paying truck drivers to scrap their old, polluting rigs and replace them with cleaner ones. The program dramatically slashed diesel emissions, and now, the ports are rolling out a sequel meant to reduce emissions even more. But in the process of cleaning up the air, the ports lost the trust of some of their most important partners: trucking companies, who say after their experience with the first program, they’re wary of driving alternative fueled vehicles again.

Perhaps nowhere is that skepticism more apparent than the used truck auction in Perris, California.

Here, on a hot December day, the smell of dust and diesel is strong. Trucks idle on a ramp on the auditorium floor. Above them, the auctioneer sits in a little booth, his fast-paced lilt pumped over loudspeakers to the crowd. Guys in T-shirts and ball caps nod imperceptibly or raise a finger to bid.

Richard Newell is a used truck dealer in Fontana who has a couple of trucks in the Perris sale. But one of them won’t be sold this day because he can’t get it to start – a requirement of the auction house. The truck is powered by liquefied natural gas, or LNG.

For Newell, dealing with these trucks has been “probably the worst experience I’ve ever had with a truck in my life.” 

Slideshow: How local ports reduced pollution but lost trust among truck drivers along the way | 89.3 KPCC

They don’t start. They run of out fuel. They have sensor problems. Gas tank problems. He’s in the business of selling used trucks, and he can’t sell these trucks, except at auctions for rock bottom prices. 

Yet nine years ago, LNG trucks were the darling of the ports.

“You bring on the LNG trucks and we’ll buy them,” said David Freeman, former president of the Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners at a March 2008 meeting. “Bring them on.”

What happened?

"We have to get rid of these dirty old trucks"

The plan to clean up the ports began with Geraldine Knatz’s job interview for the director of the Port of Los Angeles.

“At one point in my interview I mentioned, we have to get rid of these dirty old trucks,” she said recently in her living room in Long Beach, wearing oversized tortoise shell glasses and a gold chain necklace that said “Geraldine.”

“And I didn’t know it at the time, but apparently when I said that, it clinched the deal in terms of me getting the job.”

It was 2006, and Knatz had just read the results of a health study that found diesel emissions from port trucks were the main reason why harbor neighborhoods had disproportionately high cancer rates.

“We saw the results and it was like, 'Oh my God.'"

In addition to elevated cancer rates, trucks also contribute to LA's worst-in-the-nation smog, which prematurely kills 2,000 people a year. Smog is formed when nitrogen oxide and volatile organic chemical emissions from cars, trucks, and natural sources like trees are baked by sunlight.

Slideshow: How local ports reduced pollution but lost trust among truck drivers along the way | 89.3 KPCC

There was also an economic reason for the ports to crack down on emissions. As part of a legal settlement, the ports couldn’t expand and add new customers until they addressed their contribution to regional air pollution.

So harbor officials decided to do something no American port had never done before: They passed a truck ban. After 2012, trucks that did not meet 2007 federal emissions standards would not be allowed in the ports.

“The port was all of a sudden acting like an air quality agency,” Knatz said. “We were telling the industry, ‘You had to meet this standard or you can’t come into our port.’ And that was pretty radical.”

Replacing approximately 16,000 trucks was going to be expensive, so officials from the ports and the South Coast Air Quality Management District provided hefty subsidies. They ranged from $20,000 for a new clean diesel to $142,000 for an LNG – nearly the entire cost of the rig. While no one told the truck drivers what to buy, both SCAQMD  and the Port of Long Beach said they encouraged drivers to buy LNGs.

Slideshow: How local ports reduced pollution but lost trust among truck drivers along the way | 89.3 KPCC

“We targeted the funds to go to LNG because we thought at the time it was a cleaner option that could do the job,” said Heather Tomley, the director of environmental planning at the Port of Long Beach.

In total, the ports of Long Beach, LA and the SCAQMD spent $202 million on new trucks.

And it was effective. By 2015, the cloud of toxic soot that hung over the ports nearly disappeared as diesel emissions dropped more than 95 percent.

“I would run into people in San Pedro who would tell me that they could really notice the difference, and that would make you feel good,” Knatz said.

"We were the guinea pigs"

At the beginning, many truckers supported the Clean Trucks Program. They wanted to be a part of the solution and wanted to drive cleaner, newer vehicles.

“We were so proud. We put them in the fleet, took pictures,” said Fred Johring, owner of Golden State Express, who got 12 brand new LNGs with $1.2 million in subsidies and $750,000 of his own money.

The enthusiasm didn’t last. Within a week after picking up his new trucks, Johring said they started breaking down.

“For the first two years of ownership there were no less than three of our fleet of 12 LNG trucks in the shop at any given time,” he said.

Slideshow: How local ports reduced pollution but lost trust among truck drivers along the way | 89.3 KPCC

Worse, the LNG trucks were barely powerful enough to haul loaded containers from the ports – which is the exact job they were supposed to do. Johring said he got calls from miserable drivers, complaining that the truck slowed to 25 mph at the slightest grade, even when other trucks were going 55 mph.

And wasn’t just Johring. KPCC spoke with 10 trucking companies and 2 used truck dealers, and all but one of them had negative experiences with their LNGs. One just uses her LNGs to haul empty containers because of how underpowered they are. Another says he doesn’t drive the trucks outside of Los Angeles because of their unreliability. A third said he spent so much money towing his LNGs to the shop that he bought his own tow truck.

“We were told that the LNG trucks had been a proven entity, that they’d been running that engine for a long time. That they were perfect for the port. So it was a win-win all the way across the board,” said Johring, who in addition to running his own trucking company is the chairman of the Harbor Trucking Association, a trade group for companies that haul from the ports of LA, Long Beach and Oakland. “That was anything but the truth. We were the guinea pigs, and we weren’t told that.”

Under the terms of the subsidy, Joring had to keep his trucks for 5 years. When that time was up, he sold the trucks as soon as he could.

They ended up at the auction in Perris, with so many other unwanted LNGs. In fact, LNGs now move 70 percent less cargo at the ports than they did in 2012.

Slideshow: How local ports reduced pollution but lost trust among truck drivers along the way | 89.3 KPCC

On the day KPCC visited the auction in December, two LNGs sold for $19,000 each – just 12 percent of what they were worth five years ago. And four of the seven on offer never made it to the auction block, either because they wouldn't start or because of other problems. 

“There’s no market. I’m in the resale market and I can’t sell these trucks,” said used truck dealer Rich Newell.

Newell said when people come to his shop in Fontana looking to unload an LNG truck, they typically do not buy another one. That’s because of LNG’s notorious problems and also because the price of LNG fuel is no longer cheaper than diesel. 

“Everyone’s going back into dirty diesel, no one’s going back into these,” Newell said.

To be fair, diesel trucks manufactured after 2010 are orders of magnitude cleaner than the old, smoke-belching rigs the ports banned back in 2008. But they are still significantly dirtier than LNGs: when run at low speeds, like they are in the ports, diesels have smog-forming emissions that are as much as 44 times higher than an LNG truck.

Despite the problems, not everyone who bought an LNG through the ports has sold it – as of December 2016, there are still 691 registered.

But many of the people who kept their trucks are unhappy with them. Carlos Gil, who works for CSC Transport, purchased three LNG trucks with help from government subsidies. He called the the program “a rip off.” He considered selling his trucks because of how often they broke down and how expensive they were to repair. “I was miserable for a few years,” he said, then he learned how to repair them himself and stopped paying hefty mechanic bills.

Slideshow: How local ports reduced pollution but lost trust among truck drivers along the way | 89.3 KPCC

Now, he buys them used from unhappy people at rock bottom prices -- $10,000 or less. He said he only uses them to haul empty containers over short distances.

“If I haul a load, it has to be very light, and it cannot go over the bridge, it’s too slow,” he said. “I use (diesel) trucks for full containers.”

Lessons learned

Does this mean the LNG program was a failure?

“It was a huge experiment with public money, well meaning, and it didn’t work." said David Pettit, an attorney with the environmental group Natural Resources Defense Council.

Pettit has long been critical of relying too heavily on incentives and subsidies to achieve air quality improvements.

“This is public money going to private industry to clean up the air pollution that private industry is causing,” he said. “A lot of money was essentially wasted on subsidizing LNG trucks that were not successful in operation.”

The ports see things differently.

Heather Tomley, the director of environmental planning at the Port of Long Beach, acknowledged there were problems with the LNG trucks, but she pointed to the massive reduction in harmful diesel emissions achieved by the Clean Trucks Program overall. The gains were part of the reason why the the risk of getting cancer from air pollution in the South Coast dropped by nearly 60 percent between 2005 and 2012.

“We established with the Clean Truck Program was a significant environmental benefit for the entire region,” she said.

Tomley and her counterpart at the Port of LA, Chris Cannon, both defended their enthusiasm and subsidization of LNG engines at the time, saying they initially believed the trucks would work perfectly well.

Slideshow: How local ports reduced pollution but lost trust among truck drivers along the way | 89.3 KPCC

“We were relying on the information we were getting from the regulatory agencies and the manufacturers,” she said. “These engines had gone through the process to be certified and were being marketed for sale in this type of use," she said. "Once they went into practice it was determined they weren’t necessarily the right size or the right fit for the type of work being done.”

Going forward, however, the ports plan to do thorough field testing of any low-emission engines.

“Part of the lessons learned is that we recognized going forward that there really needs to be that vetting process,” said Tomley, “We don’t want to go down a technology pathway and have that technology not work.”

In the end, the ports say it’s not their responsibility to decide whether or not LNG trucks should be used in the ports.

“We have extensive discussions with manufacturers of equipment,” said Cannon. “But ultimately the operators of the equipment themselves are the ones who have to make the decision about what to buy, because we know that they know what’s best for their needs.”

Getting buy-in

Now the ports are rolling out a sequel to the Clean Trucks Program. The goal is to cut overall port greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. To do so, the ports plan to slowly shift the entire fleet of 16,000 port trucks to low emission and, eventually, zero emission technology powered by electricity and fuel-cells. Cutting carbon dioxide can also reduce emissions of other pollutants like nitrogen oxides.

To start, the ports plan to ban the oldest, dirtiest trucks -- similar to the first Clean Truck Program. But this time, they're targeting trucks that don’t meet 2010 federal emissions standards, some 60 percent of the fleet.

To get even deeper reductions, all new trucks registered in the ports by 2023 will have to meet an even stricter state standard that will are scheduled to take effect that year.

But as of right now, there is no engine on the market that both meets the new standard and is powerful enough to haul loaded containers from the ports. That makes truckers like Fred Johring skeptical.

“If you’re going to mandate something on us, this needs to be a commercial, viable solution,” he said. 

The ports’ reassurance that any new engine technology will be thoroughly field tested – unlike last time – is too little, too late for him.

“Any time you have an environmental program like the clean truck program, it’s important that business and those that spent money on it feel like it was a success for them. In this case, those that spent the money feel like they were trickbagged," he said. "And as a result are going to be very hesitant to ever step their foot into anything that’s experimental again.”

Greater Los Angeles still doesn’t meet federal air standards for smog. Changing that hinges, in part, on whether the ports can convince people in the trucking industry, like Fred Johring, to try low emissions trucks again in the future. And right now, that future looks decidedly hazy.

Online Edition

Mar 03, 2017

How new Southern California air cleanup plan could affect warehouses, ports

Online Edition

An earlier version of this report incorrectly described which board members voted against the plan. The corrected version is below.

Southern California air quality officials approved a 15-year pollution clean-up plan Friday, March 3, after adding provisions that would eventually eliminate a pollution-credits marketplace that regulates emissions from oil refineries and other major smokestack polluters.

But the 11-2 vote by the South Coast Air Quality Management District board left intact controversial plans for pollution reduction from the region's ports and warehouse centers to be achieved through voluntary compliance with industry.

The board majority rejected provisions sought by new member Sheila Kuehl, a Los Angeles County supervisor, that would have required district staff to develop port and warehouse rules that the board could put in place should volunteer efforts fall short.

Kuehl, however, succeeded at adding provisions to the plan that will have the board seek state authority to impose rules requiring public agencies to use near-zero and zero emission trucks.

She also won plans for tougher rules to cut pollution from airports.

"You win few and lose a few, but you move in the right direction," Kuehl said to the cheers of Sierra Club members just outside the air district offices in Diamond Bar.

The plan will serve as a blueprint for future regulations designed to meet the federal health standard for ozone, the hallmark pollutant of summer smog. While the region has made great progress in the past 40 years in reducing air pollution, lung-searing ozone, a product of vehicle and smokestack emissions, remains a consistent problem. Last year, ozone pollution exceeded federal standards during 132 days.

The district regulates air pollution in the ocean-to-mountains air basin over Orange County and the urban portions of Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties.

Most board members opposed the tougher stance on the ports and warehouses proposed by Kuehl.

Janice Rutherford, a San Bernardino County supervisor, said warehouses fall under the land-use authority of cities and counties. She contends that the air district would be overstepping its jurisdiction if it imposed regulations for such facilities.

Such regulations also would hurt job creation in the Inland Empire in the logistics sector, she said.

"This industry is getting people out of poverty and into the middle class," Rutherford said.

The board voted 7-6 for a provision sought by Judith Mitchell, a Rolling Hills Estates councilwoman, that sets goals and deadlines to a plan to eliminate the pollution credit market for the region's oil refineries, power plants and larger factories.

It calls for these facilities to cut nitrogen dioxide emissions by five tons by 2025, and would replace the marketplace with direct pollution control rules "as soon as practicable."

Online Edition

An earlier version of this report incorrectly described which board members voted against the plan. The corrected version is below.

Southern California air quality officials approved a 15-year pollution clean-up plan Friday, March 3, after adding provisions that would eventually eliminate a pollution-credits marketplace that regulates emissions from oil refineries and other major smokestack polluters.

Mar 04, 2017

Driverless trucks may put human drivers out of work sooner than later

Online Edition

For decades, trucking has provided big-rig driver Frank Mora and his family a decent living. He doesn’t expect that will last forever.

Most major truck manufacturers and several well-funded startups are busy testing automated or driver-free vehicles.

Test models of cars that will whisk passengers around town without a human at the wheel have attracted much media attention. But it’s apparent that when driverless vehicles hit the road for real, they’ll be driven by commerce, and that means trucks will likely lead the pack.

Mora, whose family has been in the trucking business for three decades, said he can easily understand the appeal of a machine that can be run 24 hours a day without forced breaks for rest and with less labor. The technology is already out there.

• GRAPHIC: The road to big rigs without drivers

From completely driverless big rigs to platooned trucks that could be manned by a single driver and eventually automated, the testing is underway.

“Sure, as an owner I could save a lot of money on wages,” he said. “As to whether I think it’s safer, it’s too soon to tell. I am sure that there are ... maneuvers that only humans can do.”

Success for the technology could summon a seismic shift for California’s 218,000 truck and delivery drivers — 2.5 million across the nation — according to the latest count from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“This is not the far future,” said Xiao Yun Lu, a research engineer at Partners for Advanced Transportation Technology (PATH) at UC Berkeley. “This is the near future.”

The economy churns on the goods truckers carry to markets, retail stores and, increasingly, directly to consumers. Many believe automation can make the business safer, cut operator costs and address intermittent shortages of truck drivers.

“There is a very strong commercial motivation,” said Steven Shladover, a research engineer and manager at PATH. “(Trucks) are out there on the road all day and every day, unlike passenger vehicles which are parked 95 percent of the time. When people buy trucks, they are looking for a return on the investment.”

For truckers like Mora, life will change.

“There is nothing we can do to stop it or change it,” said 28-year-old driver Mora, who spent much of his childhood inside the cab of an 18-wheeler. “But with change there is always opportunity.”

It’s already happening.

• Otto, a subsidiary of Uber, tested an automated truck with a 120-mile beer run across Colorado last year.

• Freightliner, a truck produced by Daimler Trucks North America, glided across the Hoover Dam in 2015.

• Startup Starsky Robotics last week announced it is testing a kit for trucks that will allow big rigs to drive alone on highways, remotely controlled.

While self-driving cars offer the prospect of making roads safer and reducing traffic, these hulking trucks promise commercial benefits that could hasten their development.

“Platoons” could lead the pack. Volvo Trucks was one of six truck manufacturers that last year rolled out partially automated big rigs across Europe so regulators could test their ability to safely caravan. The testing went smoothly, but in Europe, as in the United States, regulators are still grappling with how to handle vehicles that soon won’t need humans.

The technology, known as platooning, allows two or more cargo trucks to ride in tandem, talking to one another. It’s considered one of the lowest levels of automation, including some simple features already known to drivers of luxury vehicles, such as automated braking. Analysts believe platoons have the potential to come to market quicker because of fewer regulatory hurdles. Already several states have adopted legislation allowing variations.

What’s the hurry? Savings. Platooned trucks drive tightly together, cutting as much as 20 percent in fuel costs, by some estimates. And one of trucking companies’ biggest expenses is what goes in the tank, according to an American Transportation Research Institute.

Can these packs of trucks maneuver successfully without help from human hands? That’s one question Caltrans officials will be looking at when they oversee a federally backed test of a three-truck Volvo platoon, starting Wednesday.

It will be the first time platoon driving will be tried in Southern California. The trial will focus on how safe these vehicles can be with other cars weaving in and out around them.

“These trucks are not going to be taking away jobs,” said Aravind Kailas, a U.S.-based technology planner at Volvo. “It’s targeting safety to get on the road.”

In the trials, drivers will sit behind the wheels of three 53-foot Volvo big-rig trucks. All will steer the vehicles, but the second and third driver won’t touch the gas or break pedal.

The test will be similar to the drill staged in Rotterdam but with a much shorter route, along the 110 Freeway to the Port of Los Angeles, where hundreds of cargo-loading trucks stream in and out of daily.

They will communicate through a complex system of radar, cameras and Wi-Fi.

“What you are achieving when these trucks talk to one another is the ability to brake synchronously at the same time,” Kailas said. “If the first truck brakes, the second and third truck brake at the same time.”

This won’t be a test for speed. None of the trucks will travel faster than 55 mph.

“The No. 1 thing we want to show,” Kailas said, “is that this is a technology that is targeting safety,”

“Everything is pretty much possible,” said Wokil Hayder, director of autonomous and automated driving for Volvo Trucks in Sweden, “but whether you want to do it is another thing.”

As the technology barrels forward, some anxiety is evident among regulators and consumers alike.

While a Consumer Technology Association poll found 70 percent of 2,001 people surveyed ready to test out an autonomous vehicle, a University of Michigan poll revealed less than 16 percent were willing to let the machines completely take over.

California, where many of the startups pursuing the technology call home, has been slow to adopt autonomous vehicle regulations, while Michigan, home to the auto industry, has shot ahead.

Headlines from last summer could stoke anxiety, too. The death of a man driving a Tesla Model S car in autopilot mode renewed concerns about the technology. After an investigation, U.S. regulators, however, found no evidence of defects. CEO Elon Musk, who operates a Tesla design center in Hawthorne as well as the SpaceX rocket-building facility, applauded the decision.

What needs to happen before these vehicles are fully deployed is a “mind-set change,” Volvo’s Hayder said. Motorists may fear sharing the road with “heavy, long big trucks” without drivers. But the long-range goal is to make robot-powered trucks safer than their human-steered counterparts.

“We have a huge opportunity,” said Marques McCammon, general manager for connected vehicle solutions at Wind River, a subsidiary of Intel that has been developing software for self-driving vehicles.

Smart vehicles, with more electronic eyes than humans, will have a greater ability to sense obstacles or other danger. New, “smarter” road systems that communicate with vehicles could “change the paradigm,” he said.

In 2015, 35,092 people died in car accidents, according to the National Highway Safety Transportation Administration. The agency estimates 94 percent of all accidents were caused by human error.

“Think about what this could mean for safety alone,” McCammon said.

Experts disagree about just how long it will take to get driverless big rigs on the road and just how human-free they will ever be.

Platooning, for example, is a long way from robots at the wheel.

Shladover estimates it could be decades.

“All the truck drivers are not going to lose their jobs,” he said, “and there are a lot of other crazy predictions floating around out there. A transportation system doesn’t change that quickly. It takes a long time for vehicle fleets to turn over.

“Even when we got a government mandate that all new vehicles have to be equipped with seat belts, it took 11 years to get up to 90 percent of the vehicles (in compliance),” he added.

But plenty of folks are more bullish.

The head of Connecticut-based transportation and logistics company XPO told a conference of maritime professionals in Long Beach last week that he expects to see driver-free trucks “everywhere” in the next decade.

And Noel Perry, an economist specializing in freight, said he expects to see driverless trucks come online in 10 years and for platooning to be operational by 2020.

That could eliminate hundreds of thousands of jobs, with median pay about $40,000 for each, according to the Department of Labor.

That notion doesn’t sit well with Sam Loesche, a lobbyist for the Teamsters union, which represents about 40,000 truck and delivery drivers nationwide.

“You can never be in a situation where you automate jobs overnight and expect that to be the best interest of the country,” Loesche said. “I don’t think we have even seen technology that is proven and reliable.

“These drivers are the face of business,” he said. “They interact on a day-to-day basis with customers, and their relationship strengthens brands. I would say anyone who writes off the role of the working class in this country ... does so at their own risk.”

For Perry, the arrival of automated trucking is not a drama pitting jobs and families vs. a robotically enhanced bottom line. It’s simply where the business needs to be, he said.

“It will mean trucking is cheaper and safer,” he said.

Online Edition

For decades, trucking has provided big-rig driver Frank Mora and his family a decent living. He doesn’t expect that will last forever.

Most major truck manufacturers and several well-funded startups are busy testing automated or driver-free vehicles.

Test models of cars that will whisk passengers around town without a human at the wheel have attracted much media attention. But it’s apparent that when driverless vehicles hit the road for real, they’ll be driven by commerce, and that means trucks will likely lead the pack.

Mar 08, 2017

Video: Were those driverless trucks on the 110 Freeway?

Online Edition

Three big rigs barrelled up and down the 110 Freeway on Wednesday, mirroring one another in a tight pattern.

Two of the Volvo big rigs bore special antennas to “talk” to one another and radar that can detect movement around them.

They were accelerating and navigating without human help.

It was only a test, but the partially automated trucks provided a peek into the future of long-haul trucking. The demonstration’s sponsors hope it provides a step toward completely automated transport in the years ahead.

“It’s smooth, safe and efficient,” said Carrie Brown, Caltrans’ district director for Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

The project is part of a collaboration between UC Berkeley Partners for Advanced Transportation Technology and Volvo Group of North America, sponsored by Caltrans and the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The idea: Demonstrate how the technology could reduce greenhouse gases, increase energy efficiency and heighten safety in the commercial transportation system.

Using what’s called “cooperative adaptive cruise control,” the heavy trucks drive tightly together, responding to one another and their surroundings with computerized sensors, saving fuel and releasing fewer emissions. Well-plotted trips would also ease congestion, experts believe.

“Simply put,” she said, “the trucks are driving as a stable unit.”

The first live display of automated truck platoons in Southern California appeared to roll without a hitch.

The demonstration stretched from the Los Angeles Port Headquarters to the 110 Freeway’s Sepulveda Boulevard exit and back again, about a 12-mile loop.

Stepping into the big rig was a group of four, including a reporter and California Highway Patrol accident investigators. They saw a truck that looked much like any other, except for cabins equipped with computer hardware, including a laptop and tablet wired to the dashboard.

“What we are going to do is show when we are on the freeway how good the system works and how responsive it is with cut-ins and cut-outs,” explained Aravind Kailas, a technology planner for Volvo, who served as the group’s guide.

The biggest benefit from platooning: When the front truck slows, the others follow suit, simultaneously. There’s no lag time — and that improves safety, Kailas said.

He displayed a tablet that showed the images of three truck outlines. Xiao Yun Lu, the driver of the third truck and a research engineer at Partners for Advanced Transportation Technology, pulled onto the 110 Freeway from Harbor Boulevard in San Pedro under a sunny blue sky.

A few moments later, an icon representing the third truck lit up on the monitor as the driver flicked on a sophisticated brand of cruise control.

The cabin shuddered a bit, but soon the ride turned smooth. The demo rolled on, seemingly without a hitch, no pun intended.

Within a few minutes, a car cut in between the second and third trucks.

The truck automatically decelerated, but Yun Lu eventually hit the brake pedal, disengaging the chain of 18-wheelers.

Lu’s action after the car’s intrusion triggered the system to disconnect and gave control back to the drivers, much like cruise control in your family sedan.

But soon the trucks gathered back into close formation, with a distance of about 1.5 seconds — about 50 feet — separating the big rigs. The rear truck’s speed will never exceed that of the lead vehicle, Kailas said.

The demo team acknowledged there are kinks to work out. For instance, the communication system needs to be protected from interference from outside systems, so the security needs to be shored up.

Experts believe it could take years for the technology to roll for real while federal officials work on standards.

Nonetheless, the test’s team members believed they proved there’s a future for such automation on the road.

“It’s promising,” said John Fasana, Metro Board chair, after his test ride.

“We have heard about adaptive cruise control for cars,” he said, “and it’s great to know we are looking at it for the ports as well.”

Online Edition

Three big rigs barrelled up and down the 110 Freeway on Wednesday, mirroring one another in a tight pattern.

Two of the Volvo big rigs bore special antennas to “talk” to one another and radar that can detect movement around them.

They were accelerating and navigating without human help.

It was only a test, but the partially automated trucks provided a peek into the future of long-haul trucking. The demonstration’s sponsors hope it provides a step toward completely automated transport in the years ahead.

Feb 27, 2017

Angry union members protest outside shipping conference in Long Beach

Online Edition

Long-simmering tensions between the Teamsters and a major trucking company owner played out in front of the Long Beach Convention Center Monday morning as dozens of union members rallied outside one of the largest regional shipping conferences in North America.

Carrying signs “XPO Greed,” a group of several dozen protesters decried the fast-growing transportation company XPO Logistics Inc.’s labor practices, which include using contract truckers instead of truckers who are employees. They chanted, “Bradley Jacobs you can’t hide, we can see your greedy side,” less than an hour before Jacobs, the head of XPO, was set to give opening remarks for the TMP 2017 Conference in Long Beach.

In those remarks, Jacobs shot back.

“The Teamsters are out of control, they are just out of control,” he told a crowd of hundreds of international logistics industry professionals that packed the center’s main ballroom. “I don’t see the value they bring to the employees or their company, which is why 99-point something percent of our organization in North America is union free and it is very likely to remain union free.”

The protesters in jeans and with bullhorns struck a sharp contrast to the lines of suit-wearing, cell-phone tapping managers.

The demonstration represented another turn in a years-long, Teamster-waged campaign against several profit-conscience trucking companies operating in Southern California. The union contends trucking companies hire workers as contractors instead of employees to avoid paying certain benefits such as workers compensation.

“They are abusing us,” said Humberto Canales, 52, a Bell Gardens father who drove for XPO for several years.

Union officials said big rig drivers like Canales are squeezed, often forced to pay for the cost of using company-supplied trucks. Last year, Canales said he abruptly turned in his big rig keys after a month where his truck maintenance cost ate up his whole paycheck.

“They leave us with nothing,” he said. Canales said he tried to come back to the company and was denied, and later filed a complaint that is pending with the National Labor Relations board.

Jacobs, a rising star in the logistics industry, has lead the Connecticut-based company toward massive expansion; it has gobbled up competitors and is now an international firm. XPO operates in 34 countries, employs 86,00 workers and boasts 50,000 customers.

Earlier this month, Jacobs reported to investors that revenue for the fourth quarter jumped 10 percent to $3.68 billion.

During his opening remarks at the conference, hosted by the Journal of Commerce, he embraced globalism and a world of greater automation where machines talk to each other. He also predicted that autonomous vehicles would be “everywhere” on U.S. roads in the next decade, a potential blow for the millions of U.S. truck and delivery drivers that count on the work to earn a middle-class wage.

“Ultimately I am convinced it will be much more safe, computers don’t drink and drive. Computers don’t fall asleep and get sleep apnea,” he said. “But computers also go on the blink as we know and there has to be fall back systems for that.”

In the meantime, Barb Maynard, a spokeswoman for Justice for Port Drivers, the group organizing Southern California drivers for the Teamsters union, said workers have been filing hundreds of wage and hour claims with state regulators.

And the Teamsters, which have held a series of strikes against XPO and other trucking companies that operate near the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, will continue to place pressure on the companies.

“(XPO’s) employees, both in the U.S. and Europe, have grown increasingly frustrated by Jacobs’ disrespect for their contribution to the company’s sky-rocketing profits, escalating shareholder returns, and bloated CEO pay,” she said.

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Long-simmering tensions between the Teamsters and a major trucking company owner played out in front of the Long Beach Convention Center Monday morning as dozens of union members rallied outside one of the largest regional shipping conferences in North America.

Mar 01, 2017

L.A., Long Beach ports would be hurt by late change in clean-air plan: Guest commentary

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The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are among the world’s largest trade gateways. Their economic contribution to the U.S. and Southern California regional economy is significant, with trade-dependent industries accounting for one-third of the state’s economy — and one in nine jobs in the Southern California region tied to the ports.

Although they are a powerful economic engine, both ports operate in a highly competitive environment that requires constant vigilance. The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach face increased competition from other West Coast ports, as well as foreign (Mexico and Canada) and East Coast ports. There are already retailers, developers and goods movement providers that work to minimize their supply-chain exposure to California because of its high cost and regulatory climate. Other retailers have announced that their future exists in other parts of the country.

The shipping industry has worked closely with the ports for the past decade to implement a Clean Air Action Plan that has resulted in significant reductions in emissions from port sources. This collaboration relied on voluntary measures by industry to achieve these impressive results. This spirit of collaboration should continue as technology keeps changing and the shipping industry continues to do its part.

However, that collaboration is being threatened by last-minute amendments to the South Coast Air Quality Management District’s (AQMD) Air Quality Management Plan (AQMP).

For the better part of four years, SCAQMD staff has led a public process with a diverse group of regional stakeholders to develop its 2016 AQMP. This time-consuming effort included more than 200 public working groups, public meetings and updates to AQMD board committees before sending this plan to the full board for approval. The result is a lengthy plan that, if approved, will reduce smog-forming emissions in Southern California by 2023.

At its February board meeting, the AQMD was scheduled to vote on the AQMP. But that vote was postponed due, in large part, to the last-minute introduction of far-reaching surprise amendments. These amendments received none of the review or analysis as did hundreds of other public comments and letters in the existing AQMP.

Several of these amendments would negatively impact the ports and goods movement industry. They would implement something called Indirect Source Rules (ISRs) for ports, airports and warehouses that are questionably legal and would harm the goods movement industry in our region.

At present, more than 1 billion square feet of warehouse space exists in Southern California. The introduction of ISRs will likely result in the relocation of freight facilities outside the South Coast Air Basin, where such facilities will not be subject to an artificial growth cap and severe administrative burdens. Thus, emissions will likely increase as facilities that service the region’s need for goods move further away from Southern California’s population centers, lengthening truck trips and increasing vehicle miles travelled.

To make matters worse, AQMD staff have indicated that these amendments are not needed to reach attainment of federal clean air standards.

The goods movement sector is one of the region’s last remaining pathways to middle-class income for many in the working class. How can we expect to keep pace with our regional rivals in creating middle class jobs if such draconian regulations, in the form of un-vetted amendments, are implemented by the AQMD board?

The AQMP process was long and arduous. The plan before the AQMD board on March 3 has been thoroughly analyzed, scrutinized and reviewed, with no stakeholder fully satisfied. Last-minute efforts to include amendments with costly, anti-competitive language must not be included in this AQMP. Why bother to have a public process if, in the 11th hour, certain board members can put in significant amendments with no public vetting or staff analysis.

On behalf of PMSA and the broader goods movement industry, the AQMD board needs to approve the Air Quality Management Plan as currently drafted and with no amendments.

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The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are among the world’s largest trade gateways. Their economic contribution to the U.S. and Southern California regional economy is significant, with trade-dependent industries accounting for one-third of the state’s economy — and one in nine jobs in the Southern California region tied to the ports.

Feb 10, 2017

Dockworker lottery is ‘false dream,’ says longshore workers’ union leader

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The high-profile drawing for part-time jobs that could lead to full-time positions pulling in more than $100,000 a year creates a “false dream,” the head of the powerful Southern California dockworkers’ union said Friday.

The Pacific Maritime Association, representing shippers and terminals at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, insists the rare lottery prevents labor shortages by creating a ready pool of fill-in workers. The jobs start at about $25 an hour, but wages increase with experience. More appealing to applicants, however, is that the jobs can provide a path for workers to secure full-time union employment.

But union officials, who agreed to the drawing, say current freelancers, known as “casuals,” have been waiting and working for more than a decade in hopes of snagging a union gig.

“You’re winning a ticket to a false dream,” said Bobby Olvera Jr., president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 13, which represents about 7,000 full-time union workers at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. “There are 5,000 (casuals) down there getting work two days a week.”

Olvera worries that bringing in more casuals allows the PMA — which negotiates and administers labor agreements with the ILWU on behalf of dozens of shipping companies and terminal operators — to dilute the talent pool and pay newer freelance workers less.

PMA spokesman Wade Gates wrote in a statement that terminal employers and the ILWU “work together to maintain a balanced approach on the number of full-time registered workers needed at the ports, as well as the number of approved casual workers.”

“These decisions are based on projected cargo volumes, gradual attrition in the workforce and other factors,” he stated. “Obviously, too many positions dilute the work opportunities for the individuals involved, and too few available workers can limit the ports’ ability to meet cargo-handling needs.”

Olvera maintains that there are too many casual workers for the shifts that are available.

“There is zero labor shortage,” he said, noting that he’s not heard a single case of jobs not getting fulfilled on the docks because there aren’t enough hands to handle it.

There are about 5,000 casuals who pick up intermittent work at a dispatch center in Wilmington.

About 46 percent of those casuals trained and approved to work make themselves available during any given week last year, according to the PMA. And those casuals worked on average 1.6 eight hour shifts per week.

The ILWU and PMA share a long history of contentious relations. Labor strife hobbled trade in 2014 and 2015 during bitter contract talks.

Most recently, the two have been locked in a dispute over the lottery process after some hopefuls who had filled out cards and mailed them in had them returned to their homes. The ILWU initially refused to participate in the drawing.

The lottery was temporarily halted earlier this week until an arbitrator ruled the process must go forward. The ILWU appealed the decision. Its appeal will be heard during a hearing Tuesday.

Meantime, InterOptimis, a business-services company based in Moorpark, is counting and verifying an estimated 80,000 submissions.

The last drawing was held in 2004, when about 18,000 names were pulled. Most eventually went into the casual pool. After years of waiting for full-time work, many frustrated casuals dropped out.

Olvera said the last time the PMA hired casuals on as full-time union members was in 2015, when 600 workers were hired.

In this round, the first 2,400 names picked will be eligible for the freelance positions.

Online Edition

The high-profile drawing for part-time jobs that could lead to full-time positions pulling in more than $100,000 a year creates a “false dream,” the head of the powerful Southern California dockworkers’ union said Friday.

Feb 07, 2017

Drawing for lucrative LA and Long Beach port jobs is back on — for now

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A much-anticipated drawing for freelance dockworker positions — jobs that could lead to lucrative union positions down the road — appeared to be back on Tuesday, despite objections by union officials that the effort had been botched.

The actual drawing should begin in a couple of days, an official said Tuesday.

“Moving forward,” said a text from Mondo Porras, vice president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, Local 13 that represents about 7,000 dockworkers.

The process had been set to begin a day earlier, but local union officials refused to participate amid concerns that many of the mail submissions never got into the drawing.

After the ILWU local filed a complaint about irregularities, an arbitrator that handles disputes between the union and its employer, the Pacific Maritime Association, intervened late Monday, ordering the count to proceed for now.

But, Porras said, the union has appealed that order and the appeal is set to be heard Feb. 14.

He said the union was motivated by members who last week voted to stop the count after a “large number of cards were returned to sender,” he said.

Most of those cards, known as “interest cards,” are referral forms given to union members and officials that generally are then submitted by friends and family members of union workers. Hopefuls fortunate enough to get a referral stand a much better chance of being selected.

“Process is going,” PMA spokesman Wade Gates said in an email.

“Counting and verifying first,” Gates said. “The actual drawing may not start for a couple of days.”

The rare drawing for the jobs at the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports has drawn widespread interest. An estimated 80,000 entries will be counted and verified by InterOptimis, a business-services company based in Moorpark.

The winners will be offered part-time work as “casuals,” who fill in shifts when union workers are not available. The possibility of moving on to a full-time union position — one that can net more than $100,000 a year and get top-of-the line health insurance — emerges as the workers gain more seniority.

Considered among the best blue-collar jobs in country, the jobs aren’t easy to come by. Only the first 2,400 names picked during this lottery will be screened to become casuals. The rest will be called in sequential order on an as-needed basis.

The last time the union and PMA held a drawing in the Los Angeles area was in 2004 and many of those casuals are still waiting for a shot at a regular union job.

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A much-anticipated drawing for freelance dockworker positions — jobs that could lead to lucrative union positions down the road — appeared to be back on Tuesday, despite objections by union officials that the effort had been botched.

The actual drawing should begin in a couple of days, an official said Tuesday.

“Moving forward,” said a text from Mondo Porras, vice president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, Local 13 that represents about 7,000 dockworkers.

Feb 12, 2017

Uncertain times cloud zero-emission dreams for ports of LA, Long Beach

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Over more than a decade, taxpayers have forked out millions of dollars to pay for environmentally friendly equipment to help improve the air quality around the nation’s busiest ports.

Many of the exhaust-spewing vehicles chugging into coastal cargo hubs at Los Angeles and Long Beach have disappeared, replaced with cleaner-burning alternatives. Pollutant levels have plummeted. And visits to the hospital for asthma have declined.

Can the ports reduce pollution further? Experts say it’s like a dieter trying to lose the last stubborn five pounds — now comes the hardest part.

Despite all the improvement, the port corridor remains the largest stationary source of pollution in the region.

“There was a lot of low-hanging fruit,” said Chris Cannon, director of environmental management at Port of Los Angeles. “Now the low-hanging fruit is gone. It is going to be much harder to achieve emission reductions.”

And the road to greener ports is getting more tangled:

• The effort to replace mammoth fossil fuel-powered gear with electric engines is expensive.

• A new administration is shaking things up in Washington. It’s unclear if a new president and new leadership at the Environmental Protection Agency will embrace the alternative fuel boom fostered by President Barack Obama.

• Closer to home, Gov. Jerry Brown last year ratcheted up his expectations for a zero-emissions future for the state’s industry.

• Environmentalists demand fast action and goals with shorter timetables — while organized labor is slow to embrace any technology that could cut union jobs.

Amid all the hubbub, the ports have a plan, and they’re working to update it.

THE GREEN ROAD MAP

Zero-emission port operations, powered almost entirely by clean-burning gear, has long been the dream of California environmentalists who railed at the pollution-steeped past of the Los Angeles and Long Beach harbors.

That’s exactly what port leaders are attempting to move toward with their Clean Air Action Plan.

Officials are working on an update to their decade-old anti-pollution strategy, which they credit with helping to cut harmful diesel particulate matter linked to respiratory ailments by 85 percent.

The draft of the update, released in November, proposed a reduction in greenhouse gases to levels 80 percent below 1990 rates by 2050. Officials also want to slash emissions from ships and cargo-moving equipment such as cranes and forklifts.

The draft, however, rankled the very people who for more than a decade have been cleaning up the port.

Industry is weary of any new rules that will empty out its pocketbooks — such as a proposal that could place a fee on older trucks that call at the ports.

Indeed, converting to cleaner fuels won’t be cheap. The Pasha Green Omni Terminal Demonstration Project — replete with recharging solar battery stations and electric forklifts — broke ground at the Port of Los Angeles last year. The price tag: $26 million, $14.5 million of which would be paid largely through and cap-and-trade funds.

Consulting firm Moffat & Nichol estimates it would cost $23 billion for the two ports and Oakland to replace equipment with all zero- or near zero-emission technology.

Unions worry the ports’ drive to clean up will prompt officials to invest not only in greener technology but in computerized robotic equipment that could cost blue-collar union jobs.

The plan is advancing as regional air regulators look to update their own 15-year plan, which until now has relied heavily on voluntary compliance. Some on that board are pushing to slash emissions at the ports, too.

“It’s really a big challenge for us trying to find the balance, being protective of community health and reducing environmental impact, and at the same time remaining economically viable,” said Heather Tomley, director of environmental planning at the Port of Long Beach.

UNCERTAIN DAYS AT EPA

Further complicating matters is the new administration in Washington and what could be very different priorities at the EPA.

Under the Obama administration, big incentives helped alternative-fuel businesses flourish. In that wave, the ports benefited from millions of dollars to replace trucks and cranes.

While it’s not yet certain how President Donald Trump feels about alternative fuels, it’s clear he’s bullish about domestic oil.

Trump has promised to boost drilling and clear paths for major pipelines such as the Keystone and Dakota Access projects. And his cabinet includes appointees friendly to the oil industry.

Will Trump also extend Obama’s efforts to support green power? Boosting both isn’t out of the question. Officials from such industries as solar and wind power have tried to persuade the president that their businesses are booming. And that could gain favor with a business-buoying chief executive who promised the nation jobs.

“There is so much uncertainty on what is going to happen with the current administration, so we don’t know how funding or regulations are going to impact what we do here in California,” Weston LaBar, executive director of the Harbor Trucking Association. “Industry is not against clean technology, but the tech has to be affordable and commercially viable.”

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, nominated to run the EPA, has a history of criticizing and suing the agency. Environmentalists cite his tight relationships with oil and gas industry executives who have donated to his political campaigns.

In the past, Pruitt has been quoted questioning the validity of global warming, a phenomenon Trump once declared a hoax.

But in response to questions from Democrats during his Senate confirmation hearing, Pruitt said he disagreed with Trump’s earlier claims that it is just Chinese propaganda intended to harm America’s economic competitiveness. “I do not believe climate change is a hoax,” Pruitt said.

Amid the debate, committee Republicans voted unanimously to send Pruitt’s nomination to a likely vote before the full Senate in the coming days. He is expected to be confirmed along largely party lines.

After that vote, the scene at the EPA — and Trump’s feelings about cleaner-burning fuels — should become clearer. And then perhaps port officials might know if they can count on rekindled incentives to help fuel their green dreams.

TRUCK-PACKED ROADS

The biggest riddle for ports to solve arguably isn’t the heavy equipment on the docks. It’s the endless parade of big rigs that pick up containers from port terminals and deliver them to acres of warehouses in the Inland Empire and beyond.

Those heavy-duty vehicles — carrying televisions, clothing, auto parts and a wide array of consumer goods — contribute the largest share of the smog-forming nitrogen oxide and greenhouse gasses emitted near the coastal cargo centers.

To discourage older, dirtier trucks, port leaders proposed requiring operators of big rigs 10 years or older to pay a fee beginning next year. And by 2035, the cargo haulers would have to drive only zero-emission vehicles.

But truck operators, who in the last decade have spent $1 billion to buy cleaner-burning engines, believe the goals go too far.

“The more expensive they make it to move cargo, the less likely cargo owners will import and export their cargo through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach,” said LaBar of the trucking association.

The Pasha projects fueled officials’ faith that electric engines could eventually replace diesel power, but LaBar remains skeptical. He believes the ports rely too much on the notion that electric power will fix the problem. Earlier efforts to adopt LNG technology failed, he said, and wound up dearly costing truckers who bought vehicles powered by that fuel.

Currently, electric trucks don’t yet have the gusto to haul containers that can weigh up to 95,000 pounds. And electric trucks can cost three times more than their petroleum-powered counterparts.

LaBar is also no fan of tougher rules. “Onerous regulations,” he said, “increase the cost of doing business here.”

MOVE IT, MOVE IT

Amid all these competing interests, port officials say one thing is clear: they need more time.

They plan to ask commissioners to extend the public discussion period on their environmental update, which was originally set to end in mid-February.

“We need to figure out what the path is going forward,” said Tomley, the Long Beach port’s environmental planning director and a caretaker of its Green Port Policy.

Technology, while moving at a brisk pace, isn’t going to move quickly enough to solve all the ports’ puzzles this year.

And environmentalists, increasingly concerned about climate change, shun any effort that isn’t about immediacy.

“It’s stating the obvious that the ports have to do more quickly,” said Adrian Martinez, an attorney for Earthjustice.

Tough standards need to be in place, he said, and the port can’t just shoot for goals 30 years down the line.

“We have to get a lot more pollution reductions to make it safe to breathe,” Martinez said. “Until we see a plan that commits to an enforceable path to make that happen, there is going to be that tension between environmentalists, the community and the port.”

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Over more than a decade, taxpayers have forked out millions of dollars to pay for environmentally friendly equipment to help improve the air quality around the nation’s busiest ports.

Many of the exhaust-spewing vehicles chugging into coastal cargo hubs at Los Angeles and Long Beach have disappeared, replaced with cleaner-burning alternatives. Pollutant levels have plummeted. And visits to the hospital for asthma have declined.

Feb 14, 2017

Port officials weigh options to clean the air: Natural gas or electric?

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Energy companies are fighting part of a proposed clean air plan for the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles that would demand zero-tolerance for truck emissions by 2035.

Proponents of natural gas and other fuels that are cleaner than diesel argued at a Long Beach Harbor Commission meeting Monday night they can accomplish near zero-emission using energy that is already available, getting the port closer to its goal quicker.

But environmentalists want no trace of harmful exhaust being emitted into the air and prefer electric-powered vehicles that do not produce emissions.

The debate over tailpipe truck emissions is at the center of a decade-old clean air plan that the two ports are updating. On Monday, more than a dozen natural gas advocates, environmentalists and community groups showed up to stake out their position.

Heather Tomley, director of environmental planning for the Port of Long Beach, told the commission the two ports have been weighing industry concerns with the environmental aspirations, and she expects to release a revised plan in May that will include a cost benefit analysis of various options.

“We have to focus immediately on proven cost effective technologies,” said Rich Dines, a harbor commissioner who is also a dockworker at the ports. “(Natural gas) seems to be cost effective, although I understand the long-term goal is zero emission.

“There’s a way we can all work together to achieve our goals, and that’s to protect the health of the community,” he said.

The argument environmentalists make for electric trucks doesn’t consider how electricity is produced, said Greg Roche, vice president of sustainable trucking at the fuel company Clean Energy.

“There is a lot of (electric) power generation from natural gas and coal,” he said. “When you look at the total emissions of a renewable natural gas and an electric battery truck, they are about the same.”

With 570 fueling stations – including one at the Port of Long Beach – Clean Energy is the largest provider of natural gas transportation fuel in the U.S. and North America and would benefit from expanded use at the port. The fuel consists of methane gas that is captured from landfills and dairy and sewage plants. This form of energy fuels about 700 port trucks.

Leaders have been struggling to balance their goals with the multibillion cost of implementing zero-emission technology.

Natural gas has been pitched by the industry as an alternative. Roche said recent studies from UC Riverside show the fuel produces about 0.002 percent of smog-forming nitrogen oxide.

But Jesse Marquez, executive director of Coalition for a Safe Environment, advocates electric-powered vehicles, saying they don’t release nitrogen oxide that can ultimately be harmful to the community.

“We don’t need to be investing any further in natural gas,” he said.

Truck operators, meanwhile, have argued electric vehicles cost three times the amount of the dirtier diesel-powered big rigs.

Online Edition

Energy companies are fighting part of a proposed clean air plan for the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles that would demand zero-tolerance for truck emissions by 2035.

Proponents of natural gas and other fuels that are cleaner than diesel argued at a Long Beach Harbor Commission meeting Monday night they can accomplish near zero-emission using energy that is already available, getting the port closer to its goal quicker.