LOS ANGELES --– Daimler Trucks North America on Dec. 8 held events celebrating delivery of 132 new natural gas (NG)-fueled tractors to drivers who contract with California Cartage Co. and 100 new NG trucks for the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles' Clean Truck Program.

Spearheading the fleet-greening project has been a partnership between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), California Air Resources Board (CARB), the Southern California Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) and California Cartage Co. The latter has more than 1,200 owner-operators in its nationwide fleet. California Cartage provides drayage, intermodal drayage and consolidation trucking services to warehouses, and specializes in import trucking, warehousing, deconsolidation, and distribution throughout Southern California.

Nearly $12 million in grant funding for California Cartage's project has been provided by the South Coast Air Quality Management District using funding from a U.S. EPA grant and from California's Proposition 1B Program.

"The Air District is very proud to have played an important role in this aggressive alternative-fuels project," said William Burke, chairman of the agency's governing board. "This clean truck project is good for California's environment and California's residents on all accounts. The project will prove that we can have a thriving port while still protecting public health. These ultra-clean LNG trucks will provide extremely important air-quality benefits to those that live close to the ports and throughout our entire region."

In addition to the 132 vehicles delivered to California Cartage, the 100 NG vehicles earmarked for deployment by licensed motor carriers and owner-operators doing business with the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles will help meet the objectives of the ports' Clean Truck Program. The deployment of these near-zero emission trucks will lead to immediate improvements in air quality while enabling California Cartage's drivers and the ports to comply with some of the most stringent emissions reductions standards in the world.

California Cartage's new low-emission natural-gas fleet is the result of plans developed by the company working in cooperation with the EPA, CARB and the SCAQMD to remove older, pollution-creating trucks from the harbors. The initiative was developed to make the trucks more affordable for the benefit of owner-operators working with California Cartage.

The trucks, Sterling Set-Back 113s, are factory-built to be fueled with natural gas. The new NG trucks are powered by the Cummins Westport ISL G engines.

"Our ports are a major economic engine, but that engine needs cleaning," said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. "The trucks being introduced today support our mission to grow and green the Port of Los Angeles. Through our landmark Clean Truck Program, we are growing our ports and cleaning the air so that Angelenos can breathe easier."

"This is a proud day for Long Beach," said Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster, who was recently appointed to chair the U.S. Conference of Mayors' (USCM) Environmental Committee to address climate change, air quality and water infrastructure. "We're making history in our commitment toward cleaner air and marking a significant milestone on our path toward a healthier and more productive port. I commend California Cartage's leadership in ascertaining funds and deploying 132 new NG trucks for the benefit of their owner-operator fleet.

"Using natural gas in place of other fuels can help ease a number of environmental concerns," Foster added. "Natural-gas trucks reduce pollutants by more than 90 percent and the technology has come a long way. While our buses have been using natural gas for years, these new trucks with next-generation natural gas powertrains have more power and burn cleaner."

"By introducing the Set-Back 113 with natural gas, we're giving our customers a hard-working truck that reduces both costs and environmental emissions," said Chris Patterson, president and CEO of Daimler Trucks North America. "Through the development of this new truck, as well as all the others on exhibit today, we are helping to shape the future of clean technology." 

Patterson cited the expanded line of Class 3-8 vehicles, including new Freightliner Business Class M2s with natural gas that will soon be made available, as well as Freightliner diesel hybrids, other M2s, FLDs, new severe duty trucks and, coming soon for 2010, new models with Detroit Diesel's BlueTec SCR emissions control technology. With those options, "our customers can spec a truck to meet all their applications," he said.

The Cummins Westport ISL G, an 8.9-liter stoichiometric cooled-exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) engine, offers low emissions without sacrificing performance and efficiency. Available in ratings up to 320 hp, the ISL G already meets EPA 2010 standards with 85-percent lower NOx emissions than the C Gas Plus engine and features the highest power-to-weight ratio in class with an optimized turbocharger. The ISL G also features a maintenance-free exhaust system with a three-way catalyst (TWC).

"Our tests show this new natural gas technology can save thousands in annual fuel and operating costs per truck," said Robert Curry, president of California Cartage Co. "That will help owner-operators and cartage companies save thousands per year in addition to the health benefits of cleaner air and reduced emissions. Our drivers will benefit from federal tax credits for alternative-fuel vehicles and alternative-fuel incentives, too, which mean that accessibility to NG fuel is on the rise.

"We are also proud to be on the cutting edge of creating a cleaner environment for our community," Curry added. "By replacing 132 old diesel trucks, we will take tons of diesel particulate matter and tons of carbon out of the air over the life of this project (eight years)." According to California Cartage, the new trucks have been assigned to individual small fleets and owner-operators.

According to experts, natural gas vehicles generate 69 to 83 fewer greenhouse gases and non-methane hydrocarbon emissions, resulting in fewer toxins to be inhaled. They also create 32 to 73 fewer nitrogen oxides, curbing the incidence of asthma attacks. Add to these benefits less acid rain and water pollution.

Sterling Truck Corp. is a subsidiary of Daimler Trucks North America LLC and is the recipient of the 2007 J.D. Power and Associates award for Highest in Customer Satisfaction in Heavy Duty Truck Dealer Service.

Daimler Trucks North America produces and markets Class 3-8 vehicles and is a Daimler AG company.