Port officials have scheduled initial votes for the controversial and long-delayed program that would reduce diesel truck emissions at the ports.

The Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners plans to vote during their Oct. 29 meeting on an implementation timeline that would ban the oldest and most-polluting rigs beginning Oct. 1, 2008. The board of the Port of Los Angeles, meanwhile, plans to vote on an implementation schedule during their Nov. 1 meeting.

The proposal under consideration in Long Beach would initially ban all trucks manufactured prior to 1989. By Jan. 1, 2014, the port would restrict entry to all trucks not meeting 2007 federal air standards.

The $1.8 billion program, part of the ports' environmental initiative known as the Clean Air Action Plan, would replace or retrofit virtually all of the 16,000 short-haul diesel trucks at the ports in an effort to reduce truck emissions by as much as 80 percent, port officials say.

The ports planned to begin the program by January of 2007, but were forced to push back the vote and the start date after the trucking industry mounted opposition and forced the ports to reconsider certain elements of the plan.

Many motor carriers objected to the requirement that they hire employee drivers, most of whom are currently considered independent contractors. This, along with a proposed gate fee, would drive up costs and force many companies out of business, they said.

The board will not be voting on these controversial portions of the program during the Monday meeting. Lee Peterson, a spokesman for the Port of Long Beach, said the board has not dropped those elements from the plan and may vote on them at a later date.
Members of the port's executive staff are on a retreat, Peterson said, and are not available for comment.

At a recent meeting of the boards from both ports, Los Angeles Harbor Commission President David Freeman said the ports have pushed back their vote for too long and he wants them to approve the program before Dec. 14.

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