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Reducing Truck Emissions at National Port Facilities

May 8, 2023
The Reduction of Truck Emissions at Port Facilities Grant Program aims to reduce engine idling and GHG emissions at the nation’s busy seaports.

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As one of the biggest contributors of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the U.S., the transportation sector is a key target for carbon footprint reductions. By the EPA’s last count, transportation contributes about 28% of the nation’s GHGs annually. Between 1990 and 2021, the agency says total transportation emissions from fossil fuel combustion increased by 19%.

According to the EPA, the largest sources of transportation greenhouse gas emissions are light-duty trucks (37%); medium- and heavy-duty trucks (23); passenger cars (21%); commercial aircraft (7%); other aircraft (2%); pipelines (4%); ships and boats (3%); and rail (2%). With just about 90% of all world trade carried out by the sea, ocean ports are a good starting point for transportation GHG reduction.

“Shipping GHG emissions reduction has always been slow, which has led to the tightening of international and regional regulations,” according to ScienceDirect. “While the shipping industry is accelerating decarbonization, questions are raised as to what roles ports can play in adopting measures to facilitate shipping GHG emissions reduction, particularly through the incentives schemes.”

11 Million Tons of CO2

Idling trucks whose engines are running while the vehicle isn’t moving are a major contributor to vehicle emissions. According to EPA studies, long-duration truck idling annually consumes more than 1 billion gallons of diesel fuel at considerable costs to the trucking industry.

“As a result, truck idling annually emits more than 11 million tons of carbon dioxide and more than 180,000 tons of nitrogen oxides, as well as fine particulate matter and other harmful air toxics,” says the EPA’s Transportation Environmental Resource Center. “For the trucking industry, reducing idling results in considerable fuel savings.”

In April, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) opened applications for the first round of a new $400 million grant program under President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The program focuses on port electrification and efficiency improvements. 

For the current fiscal year, funding for the Reduction of Truck Emissions at Port Facilities Grant Program totals $160 million. The funding will focus on projects that reduce emissions from idling trucks at national ports, which negatively impacts air quality for surrounding communities, including small children, truck drivers and port workers.

“When truckers spend hours idling at ports, it costs them time, takes money out of their pockets and pollutes the air in nearby communities,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a press release announcing the new program. “The investments we are announcing today will save truck drivers time and money, help ports reduce congestion and emissions and deliver better air quality for workers and communities alike.”

Eligible Projects

Part of the Justice40 Initiative—focused on confronting and addressing decades of underinvestment in disadvantaged communities—the grant program is for projects that reduce truck emissions in communities adjacent to ports.

“Port-related trade has increased in recent years and this activity has led to the queuing of trucks waiting to offload their goods,” the FHWA points out. “Port facilities, port workers and surrounding neighborhoods often experience poor air quality due to significant truck congestion and idling both inside and outside the port facility.”

Eligible project activities include:

  • The development of port-related infrastructure that reduces emissions from port-related truck idling.
  • Onboard truck technologies that reduce emissions from port-related truck idling.
  • Using zero or low emissions powertrains or fuels on trucks.
  • Reducing truck congestion within or adjacent to ports, including through enhanced intermodal rail connections.
  • Reducing port-related emissions from idling trucks, including through port electrification and improving the efficiency of port operations.

The Reduction of Truck Emissions at Port Facilities Grant Program will also expand the availability of charging stations and electrical hookups. Used alongside auxiliary electric power units, these stations provide power to the cab or sleeper berth while allowing the truck’s engine to be turned off.

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About the Author

Bridget McCrea | Contributing Writer | Supply Chain Connect

Bridget McCrea is a freelance writer who covers business and technology for various publications.