Cleaner air in port cities

Innovative programs for truck drivers, equipment owners, and vessel operators

Drayage trucks at port with containers

Drayage trucks carry containers offloaded from cargo ships. Replacing older models with newer ones helps reduce air pollution in port cities.

When most of us think about air pollution, we envision coal-burning power plants and smokestacks puffing out dirty air.

In many coastal cities, however, a large source of air pollution comes from shipping ports.

Container ships, oil tankers, and other large ocean-going vessels together release vast amounts of pollution. At the Port of Houston Authority, more than one third of the air pollution also comes from roughly 3,000 “drayage” trucks — diesel-fueled heavy trucks that move containers. Much of this pollution comes from older, more polluting models.

Making it easy to upgrade

In a partnership with the Port of Houston Authority and a regional group supporting cooperation among local governments, EDF has helped develop an innovative program that makes it easier for truck owners to buy new, cleaner trucks, to reduce air pollution at the Port. 

New drayage trucks are expensive, costing $150,000 or more. But through the Houston-Galveston Area Council Drayage Loan Program, independent truck owners and truck fleet managers working at the Port of Houston can now get grants to partially offset the cost of a new truck.

Goal: Replace hundreds of trucks

The remainder can be financed through low-interest loans. The grants and loans are funded primarily through the Texas Emission Reduction Program (TERP) combined with federal funding.

Since the Drayage Loan Program began, EDF has facilitated hundreds of thousands of additional clean air dollars for the Houston region through the federal Diesel Emissions Reduction Act.

The combination of the grants (often paying half the cost of a new truck) and the loans has made this program a popular choice for drivers at the Port. The program has made a direct difference in emissions at the port and catalyzed even more air quality projects.

EDF’s 2013 peer-reviewed paper analyzed the benefits of this program and found that it is particularly helpful in reducing a prevalent ozone precursor – especially important since Houston does not meet federal health-based air quality standards for ozone.

Improving Houston’s air

Through these programs, we expect to eliminate significant amounts of air pollution near Houston’s port, including:

  • 3,742 tons of nitrogen oxide
  • 142 tons of particulate matter
  • 399 tons of carbon monoxide
  • 15,229 tons of carbon dioxide


Why this program matters:

  • Trucks account for 35% of nitrogen oxide emissions at the Port of Houston Authority. Nitrogen oxides are a primary precursor to ozone, a form of air pollution that aggravates asthma and other respiratory illnesses.
  • Over 3,000 trucks serve the port, 39% of which are model year 1997 or older.
  • Before the program began,only 6.5% of these 3,000 trucks had the most stringent emission controls.
  • In 2007, trucks servicing the Port covered 130 million miles on Houston roads and idled for nearly 4 million hours at Port facilities.

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