Seeking to mollify miffed cargo owners, the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are working with terminal operators to eliminate the charging of a fee for cargo carried by environmentally friendly trucks.

Currently, all importers and exporters have to pay a $35 Clean Trucks Fee for each of their 20-foot equivalent cargo containers – even if their cargo is carried by the latest-model trucks with the least emissions.

The ports keep the fee if cargo is carried on older, more polluting trucks – about 33 percent of the trucks now servicing the ports – but refunds it once it is verified cargo is carried by so-called “clean” trucks.

The cargo fees are used to help finance new trucks as part of the Clean Truck Program, which took effect last October and gradually will ban all trucks made before 2007. But importers and exporters are complaining the system is pinching their cash flow and is a bureaucratic hassle.

Now, in response to the complaints, the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach announced this month they will stop collecting upfront fees when cargo is carried on clean trucks.

“This tentative agreement is the result of both the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach listening to and working with the large percentage of cargo owners who are adhering to the Clean Truck Program,” said Geraldine Knatz, executive director of the Los Angeles port. “It eliminates a bureaucratic step without slowing down the significant progress we’ve made cleaning the air with this program.”

The change will not take place until Nov. 1 in order to give terminal operators time to reprogram 13 different computer systems that assess the fees.

Bruce Wargo, spokesman for the West Coast Terminal Operators Association, said eliminating the upfront fee will give motor carriers another incentive to replace older trucks.

“With the fee eliminated, cargo owners will see another benefit to using a clean truck,” Wargo said.

International Facelift

The Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport is set to get its biggest overhaul yet – after just completing a separate $753 million makeover.

The LAX’s Board of Airport Commissioners approved a $1.5 billion plan last week that calls for building more gates capable of accommodating larger jetliners and providing more room and comfort for travelers.

The project, named “Bradley West,” is expected to be completed by mid-2013 and funded entirely by the sale of airport bonds. Nearly 35 airlines operate at the terminal, with more than 9 million travelers passing through annually.

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