OAKLAND -- Truckers at the Port of Oakland were met this week by inspectors from the state Air Resources Board conducting spot checks of diesel emissions on rigs traveling to and from the docks.
The inspections, which began Tuesday and will be conducted at the port through Thursday, are part of a monthlong statewide effort meant to ensure owners of trucks using state roadways are in compliance with air pollution regulations designed to reduce the amount of cancer-causing emissions that spew from big rigs.
Truckers driving on Maritime Street at the port's outer harbor terminals were randomly selected for a brief inspection during which air resources board personnel checked to ensure trucks had the proper emission filters in place and had registered their rigs with the state board that oversees air pollution standards.
Inspections at the port are part of the resources board's "Gear Up for Clean Truck Month," a multiagency enforcement action that has conducted more than 6,000 inspections of commercial diesel vehicles throughout the state and issued more than 700 violations.
Violators are punished with fines ranging from $300 to $1,800 and include mandatory enrollment in an air pollution emissions course that is taught at local community colleges.
At the Port of Oakland Wednesday, inspectors were making sure trucks with engines older than 2007 had proper filters in place and that the drivers and truck owners were properly maintaining
"It is at some level part of the regular checks we do," said Beth White, manager of bus and truck regulation at the Air Resources Board. "We all want to breath clean air and that is why we are here." Over the last decade, the state has issued increasingly more stringent regulations on the amount of emissions a diesel truck can spew into the air with a heavy focus on trucks working at the state's ports which historically have attracted the oldest and most polluting vehicles.
For example, by the end of this year, any truck with an engine built before 2007 must be equipped with a diesel filter that will reduce certain kinds of emissions by more than 80 percent. By 2023, all trucks accessing the port must have engines built no later than 2010.
For truckers, the inspections offer a chance to both learn about the new regulations but also to be reminded that future costs will rise if they want to continue working at the port.
Rachid Bassaid, 48, was reminded of the future costs Wednesday as he pulled his rig into the inspection line along Maritime Street. Although Bassaid's truck passed the spot check, he knows that come Jan. 1 he will no longer be able to use his vehicle at the port.
"At the end of the year, I'm going to have to be done," he said. "For me, the financing is going to be a problem because my truck isn't even paid off yet."
Bassaid has a truck with a 2005 engine and the cost of retrofitting that engine with a filter to meet the new standards will be cost prohibitive. Retrofits cost at least $15,000 and Bassaid said he cannot afford the extra costs.
While the state has offered numerous incentives and grant programs to help truckers find cleaner burning engines, the pot of money is always shrinking while the demand for it rises.
Yet inspectors on Wednesday heralded the progress being made at state ports as they found fewer and fewer violators and newer and newer trucks on the street.
White said inspectors expect to review dozens of trucks at the port this week but would not have exact numbers on the amount of trucks inspected or the number of violators found until the end of the week.