How the Port of LA Could Reduce Pollution

The Clean Truck Program at the Port of LA instituted a progressive ban on polluting trucks at the Port. It is a vital part of the Ports’ Clean Air Action Plan and has helped improve air quality in the LA region.

Despite the success of the program, the Port has not eliminated the problem of polluting trucks doing business at the Port. Trucks that do business at the Port are required to be maintained to their manufacturers’ standard. Outside of collecting maintenance reports, the Port does not enforce this requirement. The lack of enforcement means that polluting trucks that need service will continue to do business at the Port and pollute for much longer than they should.

In July 2014, the Port agreed to institute a plan to enforce the maintenance provision of the Clean Trucks Program. It’s still a little unclear how the Port will enforce the requirement, but several interesting technologies exist that the Port can draw from to monitor truck pollution and, consequently, monitor the maintenance status of trucks at the Port.

Smoke Opacity Testing: This is the most basic of the technology available for heavy duty truck emissions testing. A smoke sensing meter is placed either inside or just above the vehicle’s exhaust pipe. The driver then rapidly accelerates the engine three times (the vehicle is in neutral). The meter measures how much light is able to pass through the smoke emitted through the exhaust pipe. The more smoke emitted, the lower the opacity, and the higher the emissions. Opacity meters are used in many states for heavy duty trucks, including Vermont and New York State.

Non-dispersive Infrared (NDIR) & UV Spectrometers: NDIR and UV spectrometers work by sending light across the exhaust plume to a detector, which monitors the absorption of light at specific wavelengths. The amount of absorption is translated into the exhaust concentration of various pollutants. NDIR and UV spectrometers are a well-established and frequently used technology. They are currently being used in both Virginia and Colorado as a replacement for traditional smog check programs.

Heavy Duty Emissions Tunnel (HDET): HDET is a new technology specific to heavy duty trucks. Developed by Envirotest, HDET combines some the technology used for normal smog checks and uses a long tent as a sampling chamber. As trucks drive through the tent exhaust is collected and integrated into a sample of a 7-10 second real world drive cycle. HDET was tested in the Vancouver area as a pilot project for emissions monitoring of heavy duty diesel trucks.

Emissions Detecting and Recording (EDAR): EDAR is another new technology. It was developed by Hager Environmental & Atmospheric Technologies. EDAR uses a laser system to measure infrared absorption. EDAR is mounted over the road and is able to measure the exhaust plumes of cars passing underneath it.

The Port has a wealth of options available to help them make sure that all trucks at the Port of LA are maintained properly. One of these technologies will very likely play a part in the Port’s enforcement program.

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