In an effort to reduce diesel particulates from truck emissions, the Oakland Board of Port Commissioners will levy fees on containers passing through the port.

In making the decision Tuesday, however, the board did not set the fee amount, nor did it say when the levy would be imposed. Port staff members will study those issues and report back to the board in June.

The new policy is meant to generate $520 million over the next several years to reduce air pollution around the port and to fall in line with California's stated goal of reducing health risks around ports by 85 percent.

The container fees the port hopes to raise will provide funding to retrofit older trucks and replace trucks. It also will fund a mechanism to reduce the emissions from vessels idling while they are at the port. Truck drivers who want to apply for funds to retrofit or have their equipment replaced must apply to the Port of Oakland by Tuesday.

But the commissioners circumvented a hot-button issue by relegating to future study its former proposal that truck drivers who are independent contractors be employed by truck holding companies.

Omar Benjamin, executive director of the port, acknowledged the health risks to the local community of particulate matter at the port. He said the goal is to decrease that risk, per state goals, by 2020.

At least part of the drive behind the port commission decision was the opportunity to receive money from state bond measure Proposition 1B, which requires matching funding. The port is eligible for $20 million from the measure, but it must first come up with $30 million in matching funds by March 31.

The port will hold a community meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the West Oakland Senior Center, 1724 Adeline St., to explain requirements of the retrofit and vehicle replacement programs. The port will hold a public forum in the spring to consider the ramifications of truckers entering the employ of trucking companies. The date is yet to be announced.

Last year, the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach also introduced container fees, much to the displeasure of the shippers and retailers who must pay them. The $35 fee for every 20-foot container helps fund the ports' $2 billion Clean Trucks Program.

But Erik Autor, vice president of the National Retail Federation's international trade council, said legal challenges are likely to stop the ports from collecting the fees.

Reach Francine Brevetti at 510-208-6416 or fbrevetti@bayareanewsgroup.com.