Truckers roll out plan to clean air


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California truckers say they've found an innovative shortcut to cleaner air, but state officials haven't seen enough detail yet to invest taxpayer money.

The industry wants the state to help owners pay for upgrading their 1994-2002 trucks to new, cleaner-running models. In a creative twist, the used trucks would be given to the owners of pre-1994 trucks -- high polluters that then would be scrapped.

The swap-and-scrap idea came from industry officials who are coping with new diesel regulations. The idea likely will surface at two air-quality meetings this month.

State officials say the funding and swaps are worthy of discussion, but officials would need to study details and close any possible loopholes.

"We don't want to be in the position of helping Wal-Mart buy new trucks for regular fleet turnover that would be taking place anyway," said Jack Kitowski, chief of the on-road branch of the California Air Resources Board. "We would have to be sure this would actually speed up fleet modernization."

Heavy-duty diesel trucks create more than 40% of a key smog-making gas coming from vehicles on San Joaquin Valley roads. Engine and fuel cleanup rules beginning this year will drastically cut both smog and toxic diesel particles in the future, and tighter rules are planned in 2010.

On Saturday, a seminar will focus on new regulations, emerging clean-air technologies and practical advice. The gathering will be at the New Exhibit Hall of the Fresno Convention Center.

The cost is $15 per person, and commercial exhibits can be viewed from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The nonprofit Operation Clean Air and the California Trucking Association joined forces to set up the seminar.

On Tuesday, the state Air Resources Board will convene a workshop in Sacramento to talk about possibly revising guidelines for the Carl Moyer Program.

The program has provided millions of dollars to help industries that voluntarily reduce diesel air pollution in excess of requirements or earlier than the law requires.

The Moyer program is particularly attractive to truckers now because state officials are working on another set of rules to restrict pollution coming from trucks already on the road. To get Moyer money, truckers need to begin modernizing their fleets before the new rules pass.

Truck owners could face bills for thousands of dollars in improvements on older trucks. For those who want to further upgrade, new trucks would cost $100,000 or more.

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