New York-New Jersey Coalition for Healthy Ports survey reveals high prevalence of dirty trucks at ports

September 12, 2012 -- Alliance for a Greater New York
Photo of surveyors

Survey teams check trucks for Drayage Truck Registry stickers.

In July 2012, ALIGN and dozens of other members of the New York-New Jersey Coalition for Healthy Ports conducted a series of observational surveys at Port Authority of New York and New Jersey container ports to assess compliance with the Port Authority’s dirty truck ban and the efficacy of the two-year-old Clean Truck Program, designed to take dirty port trucks off the road.  In addition to ALIGN, the Coalition includes members from the New Jersey Teamsters Ports Division, Ironbound Community Corporation, the New Jersey Environmental Federation, the North Shore Waterfront Conservancy, and the Eastern Environmental Law Center.

The impetus behind the survey was multifold.   First, workers and port community residents had observed that old, highly-polluting trucks seem to be servicing the ports despite being banned.  Second, the Port Authority had failed to respond to numerous requests from the Coalition and allies for information on the progress of the Clean Truck Program, which seems designed to fail because it places the onus of truck replacement on individual drivers who are barely eking out a living rather than on the companies they serve, and is not providing drivers with quality trucks that will remain in compliance when the next phase of the truck ban begins in 2017.  And, finally, looming expansion of the ports and increased truck traffic had created a sense of urgency to assess and improve a program which will be increasingly vital to protecting the health of truck drivers and port communities.

photo of surveyorsArmed with clipboards and cameras, and braving intense heat, survey teams positioned near truck entrances at the five major Port Authority ports surveyed trucks for Drayage Truck Registry stickers.  As of January 2011, all trucks entering Port Authority ports are required to enter the Drayage Truck Registry; trucks with engines from 1994 or later are permitted port entry and receive registry stickers to be placed on the driver and passenger sides of the truck cab.  Approximately 3,000 trucks were surveyed, and more than 1,000 “dirty” trucks, bearing no Drayage Truck Registry sticker, were identified.  

On August 1, 2012, several members of the Coalition for Healthy Ports presented the survey results to the Port Authority Board of Directors at a public meeting, and called on the Port Authority to redesign the Clean Truck Program so that trucking companies, rather than individual truck drivers, bear responsibility for upgrading trucks.  

In testimony to the Port Authority, Jacinto Diaz, a port truck driver from New Jersey, reacted to the survey findings and expressed his concerns about the Clean Truck Program: “It makes me mad to know that the Port Authority is not enforcing their truck ban.  I am nearing financial ruin while one in three of my coworkers passes through the gates in older trucks.  I followed the Port Authority’s program to replace my truck and purchased a vehicle from the Port Authority’s designated seller and the truck is a dirty clunker that’s putting me into debt.  I want to drive a clean truck and am concerned about my health and the health of my community.”