LONG BEACH, Calif. --- The Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners on Friday, Feb. 15, approved a plan to cut truck-related diesel pollution.

However, the plan allows trucking companies to continue using employee drivers, independent contractor drivers or a combination of the two, the Los Angeles Times reported. The decision to permit trucking companies to use independent contractor drivers drew criticism from environmental groups and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. These groups had advocated that trucking and shipping companies be compelled to hire the truckers and that the burden of maintaining cleaner truck fleets be placed on these companies instead of the drivers.

The Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners is still studying the issue and may take a different tack than its Long Beach counterpart.

The plan approved by the Long Beach board calls for a progressive, five-year ban on older diesel 18-wheelers serving the Port of Long Beach and also establishes a more than $2 billion funding program to help contract drivers pay for newer, more environmentally friendly trucks, half of which could be alt-fuel vehicles, the Long Beach Telegram reported.

The board's vote came after five hours of public testimony. The plan is part of an overall effort to reduce emissions from the roughly 16,000 diesel trucks serving the harbor. Emissions from the port's truck fleets have been blamed for local health problems.