SAN PEDRO, CA
— About 300 drivers of the dirtiest and oldest trucks servicing the Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex gathered in Wilmington to support a plan to impose stricter pollution standards on harbor vehicles.
Port authorities and environmentalists were encouraged by the strong show of support for the plan designed to cut air pollution from work trucks by 80 percent within five years.
"It's a surprising turnout," said Rafael Pizarro of the Coalition for Clean Air, an advocacy group. "You don't see this many truck drivers agree on anything outside of a strike."
Many of the independent drivers, mostly Spanish-speaking immigrants, who filled an auditorium at Banning's Landing spoke out and urged a joint panel of Long Beach and Los Angeles port commissioners to approve the plan.
The proposed program would scrap and replace the oldest trucks, and retrofit the others, with the assistance of a port-sponsored grant subsidy.
Among the speakers was Edgar Sanchez, 48, who said it would be all but impossible to clean up his rig without a subsidy. He is among the area's 16,000 mostly low-income drivers working at the nation's busiest port complex.
The San Pedro Bay ports spew more soot and smog than half a million cars, a refinery and a power plant combined, port authorities said.
Trucks produce 30 to 40 percent of that pollution, which has been linked to higher risks of cancer, bronchitis and other respiratory ailments. One study determined that diesel-related premature deaths in California exceed the number of homicides.