Ricardo Rodriguez Long has helped sell hundreds of new, subsidized clean diesel trucks under a program intended to reduce air pollution at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

But the sales manager at Los Angeles Freightliner is scratching his head at the latest proposal for cleaning up the ports: scrapping some of the oldest, most polluting trucks and replacing them with pricey big rigs powered by liquefied natural gas.

"We need to face reality," said Rodriguez Long, whose company does not sell LNG-powered big rigs. "If we were going to go to natural gas, where are you going to refuel? We don't have the infrastructure."

Rodriguez Long is not the only trucking industry official questioning the program, the latest proposal under the ports' landmark Clean Air Action Plan. Approved in November, the plan seeks to make significant reductions in air emissions at the ports complex, the region's single largest polluter.

Although a driver or company accepted into the program will be given up to $144,000 to buy a new rig to replace each old one that is scrapped, so far only two trucking companies have sought the funds. The ports extended the deadline for applications to April 2 from March 19 after several applicants failed to complete their applications by the original deadline, port officials said.

(With $8 million in funding from each port and an additional $6 million from the South Coast Air Quality Management District, there is money to replace 150 trucks.)

"Where's the fueling infrastructure?" wondered another Los Angeles-area trucking company official, who asked not to be named. "You need to phase a market in with commercial reality. The thing that concerns me is the reckless pace at which they're moving."

Officials at the ports have been talking about the new $22 million program to industry officials since February, and are targeting old short haul trucks that carry goods to local warehouses. The trucks are among the most polluting, make the most trips and are the only ones suitable given the limited number of LNG refueling stations outside L.A.

The program specifically requires the short haul drivers to be "frequent callers," making at least seven port trips weekly, though they represent only a portion of the 16,000 trucks that operate out of both ports.

When asked about the limited fueling infrastructure, Paul Johansen, assistant director of environmental management for the Port of Los Angeles, said the program represents just one of a number of efforts to make the ports more environmentally friendly.


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