The plan began in 2008 when, under pressure from environmentalists to improve air quality, the port created the Clean Trucks Program requiring all trucking companies doing business there to aggressively reduce big rig emissions. The old fume-spewing diesel trucks were replaced with cleaner burning models, such as those fueled by clean diesel or liquefied natural gas.
Fearing there wouldn't be enough low-emission trucks to go around, port officials went a step further. They committed $44 million in public funds as a financial incentive for truck companies to upgrade their vehicles, each of which can cost $150,000.
Specifically, each company participating in the program was given $20,000 for each low-emissions truck it bought. Each of those trucks was committed to make at least 300 pickups or deliveries annually at the Port of Los Angeles over the next five years. (The nearby Port of Long Beach also has a Clean Trucks Program, which is separately managed and has a different incentive program.) All told, officials say, about 100 companies were given subsidies for some 2,100 trucks.
With the end of the program's first year looming, however, it appears that the companies' promised goals are far from being met. To date, officials say, only about a third of those given money are expected to deliver on their promise of 300 port trips by the fiscal year's June 30 end.
"What that means is that about 70 percent will not make the required number of trips the first year even though they've signed a contract," [the port's director of operations John] Holmes said.
Rather than demanding any of the public money back, which the port could try to do, they are going to finagle with the terms of the agreement to let the recession-hit shipping companies off the hook, the story goes on to say. And a predictable detail from a planet called Earth where government subsidies and regulations have a tendency to hobble the small rather than the large: "Small truck companies have long complained the program favors big truck companies because Los Angeles requires that truck drivers be employees, not independent owner-operators."