by Aditi Vaidya, EBASE Port Program Director
Beginning January 1st, 2010, California state environmental regulations went into effect requiring all truck drivers to meet new truck engine standards. There was an intervention at the Port of Oakland by Mayor Dellums, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD), the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and the Port to provide independent truck drivers with a little more time and funding to comply with the state regulations to clean up port trucks. These well-intentioned efforts demonstrate compassion for port truck drivers, as hundreds (if not a thousand) are likely to be out of work if they cannot afford to upgrade their trucks.
Unfortunately, a vast majority of drivers still will not be able to afford to purchase or maintain retrofits. We believe that while some use of government funds may be necessary to help cross the bridge to a cleaner port trucking system, in the long run the industry that profits from the goods movement must be made to pay the price to move those goods in an environmentally sustainable manner. The industry cannot continue to expect taxpayers to bail them out. For more information and analysis, read our coalition's op-ed that recently ran in the Oakland Tribune.
Meanwhile, EBASE has been active in supporting hundreds of truck drivers displaced by the industry's refusal to pay for clean trucks. On January 9th, EBASE partnered with the Workforce Collaborative, the ATLAS Program, the Alameda Labor Council, and the Teamsters to hold a jobs and resource fair. Around 100 drivers and their families attended the fair to enroll in clean diesel and hybrid auto mechanic job training programs at our community colleges and receive critical information about food programs, health care, and tax/financial assistance. Watch coverage of the job fair. Also, EBASE hired three displaced truck drivers to conduct eight weeks of outreach to fellow drivers.
In order to create a sustainable port trucking system - where drivers are not forced to choose between paying for a clean truck or being out of work - the companies that use our ports must be responsible corporate citizens. It’s time to end the free ride for the likes of Wal-Mart, Target, Home Depot and J.C. Penney’s, along with the trucking companies with whom they contract.
That’s why EBASE and the Coalition for Clean and Safe Ports are pushing Congress to update outmoded federal laws governing port trucking. Ports need the clear authority to implement 21st century policies that will protect the environment; ensure that port truck drivers earn a living wage with which they can support their families; and pave the way for future, good, green growth jobs.