If federal stimulus funding comes through, trucks at selected West Coast ports may become cleaner still, according to Cascade Sierra Solutions, a non-profit that plans to work with such partners as the Washington State Dept. of Ecology; Washington’s Ports of Seattle, Tacoma and Olympia, and the Portland, OR port to replace the oldest trucks serving the seaports with newer, cleaner vehicles.

According to Sandor Lau, development director for Cascade Sierra Solutions, which seeks to reduce fuel consumption and curb emissions from heavy-duty diesel trucks via idle-reduction equipment and other efficiency-enhancing components, a retrofit program called “Bridge to a Better Future” is ready to roll later this year-- if federal funding from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) comes through.

“We have some wonderful partners in this program,” Lau said, “and depending on funding, we hope to get into the business of purchasing and then leasing trucks ourselves to those who need them the most.”

The Bridge to a Better Future program aims to replace approximately 500 of the oldest trucks hauling in and out of some West Coast ports with trucks that are model year 2003 or newer by providing truck operators with ultra-low cost vehicle leases—leases that have monthly payments of just $450.

What’s more, $100 of each payment would go into a special savings account to create a fund for use toward the purchase of a new or cleaner used truck at the end of the six to seven year lease period. “One of the best things about this program is that it includes the opportunity to automatically save for a down payment on the purchase of a newer, cleaner truck,” said Lau.

Like many ports around the country, the West Coast ports are already working to clean up their operations. According to a recent Cunningham Report, for example, three-fourths of all trucks calling at the Port of Seattle are model year 1994 or newer, and nearly a third of the vessels that call frequently at the port use lower-sulfur fuels.

Those results were recently presented to Seattle's Port Commission as part of the first-year progress report on efforts to reduce diesel and greenhouse gas emissions. The goals for emission reductions were identified in the 2007 Northwest Ports Clean Air Strategy. All cruise vessels calling in Seattle have already met the 2010 goals by using either shore power or 1.5 % sulfur fuel in their main engines while in port.