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Unlikely Allies Come Together to Fight for Clean Air

Reprint Op-ed for the Daily News by By Joseph Lyou and Bob Massman

"For years, the Coalition for Clean Air and other air quality advocates have pushed for strong rules to reduce pollution coming from vehicles in California. Meanwhile, members of the California Trucking Association – who love clean air as much as anyone, but who are also busy keeping the state’s economy moving – have often felt targeted by rules they felt went too far too fast, and cost them too much.

"But now we unlikely allies are joining forces to call on our lawmakers in Sacramento to support continued investment in clean air. We are working with an unusually broad, bipartisan coalition to support two bills that will save important clean air funding programs: Senate Bill 11 (Pavley) and Assembly Bill 8 (Perea). These bills provide truck owners incentives to get the dirtiest vehicles off our roads, and move California toward cleaner next-generation vehicles and fuels.

"This is an issue that affects all Californians. Most of us live in sprawling metropolitan areas with heavy car and truck traffic. Exhaust from these vehicles is a major source of air pollution, which has serious health impacts. High rates of respiratory problems are a fact of life in heavily congested areas. In economic terms, regulators estimate that poor air quality costs Southern California alone as much as $14.6 billion annually, in medical expenses and missed work-days.

"Industry and government have made tremendous investments in clean technologies in recent years. New cars and trucks are significantly cleaner than they were just 20 years ago, and air quality has improved by leaps and bounds. But our work is not done.

"More than 90 percent of Californians still live in counties with unhealthy air. According to the American Lung Association, the Los Angeles area has the worst smog in the country and is the fourth worst polluted place for particulate pollution. That means people who live here are at higher risk for respiratory problems, heart disease, and premature death. Children and seniors are especially vulnerable.

"Fortunately, California has incentive programs in place that have been tremendously helpful in cleaning our air. These programs – AB 118, the Carl Moyer Program, and AB 923 – provide grants, rebates, loans, and other incentives to speed the transition to cleaner vehicles and fuels. During the past 15 years, they have prevented more than 150,000 tons of smog and particulate pollution, and deployed roughly 30,000 advanced-technology vehicles. They have also stimulated in-state manufacturing and job training, and have directly supported 17,000 California jobs.

"Thanks to innovators in the private and public sectors who are working together on solutions, California is on the leading edge of the fight to reduce pollution and create a healthier economy. AB 118 funds have helped to deploy nearly 3,000 hybrid, electric, and natural-gas trucks in California. For example, some drivers from Rancho Dominguez-based trucking firm Total Transportation Services are hauling freight around ports using California-made trucks with zero tailpipe emissions. UPS is rolling out 100 California-made, all-electric delivery trucks. California companies like Stockton-based Electric Vehicles International, Poway-based TransPower, and Long Beach-based Vision Motor Corporation are leading a convoy of innovative businesses that are making trucking cleaner.

"Trucking companies and other California businesses are making big investments in cleaner vehicle and fuel technologies, but industry cannot do the job fast enough by itself. We need public investments to complement and catalyze the efforts of the private sector. Clean air is a public good, and we all need to work together to make it a reality.

Unfortunately, California’s vital incentive programs will expire soon unless the Legislature extends them by passing SB 11 and AB 8. For the sake of our economy, our environment, and our health, we cannot afford to let these programs die.

"These important bills have already attracted plenty of support from both sides of the aisle. But because they need approval by two-thirds of the Legislature to pass, they’ll need every vote they can muster.

"As truckers know only too well, deadlines matter. It’s time to deliver the votes to keep Californians on the road to healthier air and a more prosperous economy."

Joseph Lyou is President and CEO of the Coalition for Clean Air, which advocates for clean air across California. Bob Massman is President of the California Trucking Association in 2013, and Vice President of Los Angeles-based Dependable Highway Express.

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