Despite legal challenges and resistance to increased fees, the Southern California ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are on a record pace to reduce air pollution, but the improvements are at the expense of fresh produce service.
As part of the ports’ Clean Air Action Plan, fleet operators have replaced in just nine months more than 4,000 older diesel tractors with new, cleaner rigs, said Marcel Van Dijk, marketing manager for the Port of Los Angeles.
“The port is reimbursing fleet operators up to $20,000 for each truck replaced with a new tractor,” Dijk said.
The money for the $44 million reimbursement fund is coming from increased fees of $35 for each 20-foot equivalent unit (TEU) container — $70 for each 40-foot container — hauled to or away from the ports. The fees are not imposed, however, on the new clean trucks, Van Dijk said.
Not all importers and exporters have warmed to the fee hike.
“Of course, every fee you impose is not welcome to the logistical community,” Van Dijk said.
Importers, such as Target Brands, Minneapolis, Minn. and Nike Inc., Beaverton, Ore., have gone above and beyond, he said. Those companies and others have committed to paying higher freight rates to trucking fleets that purchase the new, cleaner trucks and serve the ports.
The fees have proved to be a burden to California grower-shippers, especially those in the San Joaquin Valley. As a rule of thumb, Van Dijk said, growers based south of Fresno export their produce through the southern California ports while those from Fresno north truck to the Port of Oakland.
“Because of the fees, some southern valley produce is going to Oakland,” he said. “We are definitely losing a little market share because of the truck program.”
Trucking the valley’s produce to Oakland does have drawbacks, Van Dijk said, because the bay area port does not have shipping service to northern China and other parts of Asia. Los Angeles does.