Dialogue begins concerning truck idling ban
March 15, 2012
By Michele Mihalovich
The majority of people who turned out for a public hearing on North Bend’s proposed truck idling ban spoke out against the ordinance, including a TravelCenters of America field manager from Oregon.
The TA truck stop, known locally as Truck Town, has been located near Interstate 90’s exit 34 for nearly 40 years. But the city’s boundary has expanded over the years, and now Truck Town is neighbors with a large residential area and a middle school.
City leaders say complaints about the noise and fumes, and concerns about air quality, are what prompted the ordinance draft.
The ordinance proposes a five-minute idling limit for trucks with a gross vehicle weight more than 10,001 pounds, unless more time is needed to defrost windows. Buses, city work trucks, motor homes, farm equipment and public safety vehicles would be exempt. Violators would be fined $150 for a first offense and $300 for a second offense; a truck driver and any landowner allowing idling could be fined.
Tom Kemp, of North Bend, told the council he was concerned about the ordinance language that states residents “have been adversely affected by idling of heavy-duty diesel trucks.”
He said, “That’s an unsupported assumption, because no air quality studies have been conducted.”
Kemp also pointed out that truck engines and fuel have been improved in recent years and aren’t the polluters they used to be.
“Just because a truck is idling doesn’t mean there’s toxic exhaust,” he said.
Three women who work at the truck stop restaurant urged the council to reject the ordinance.
“If you approve this ordinance, the truckers are just going to go somewhere else, which jeopardizes my job,” Angela Bankston said.
Drew Macauley, the TA field manager, also pointed out the economic benefit of Truck Town to the city.
“We pay $45,000 in property taxes annually that goes to help your schools and the city,” he said. “We also employ 61 people, and more than half of them live in North Bend.”
Larry Costich, a Seattle attorney who represents TA, said what the city is trying to do has “laudable goals, but it’s premature for the times.”
He said truckers let their trucks idle because they need to in order to use their heaters or air-conditioners.
“There are no measured environmental impacts,” Costich said. “But the economic impact to the truckers and the truck stop will be felt. And they contribute to the economic development of this community.”
City documents indicate that it wanted to encourage the trucking industry to use Alternative Power Units, onboard generators that allow truckers to heat or cool their vehicles without the trucks running. They cost about $10,000 per unit.
Grants would be sought for constructing electrical outlets in parking areas, the documents state.
But Macauley said the city’s plan was “premature and technologically infeasible.”
He said only one in five trucks have APUs, despite the fact that they’ve been around for years. Macauley said the price tag was out of reach for many independent drivers.
He also said that having electrified outlets doesn’t do truckers any good because heating and air-conditioning units in the trucks run off the engine, not electricity.
The four people who spoke in favor of the ordinance cited environmental concerns as their reasoning.
“I am sympathetic to the drivers, but I am concerned about the environment,” Michelle Mennis, of North Bend, said. “This has been successfully implemented in other places and it should be looked at.”
“The truckers won’t be going away so we need to figure this out,” Jeff Martine, of North Bend, said. “We need to be welcoming to the truckers, but at the same time, not endanger our citizens.”
The council took no action after the public hearing.
Councilman Jonathan Rosen said after the meeting that he learned a lot from the 12 people who spoke and he was glad that a discussion took place.
“It was a great starting point,” he said. “And Mr. Kemp was right. No air quality studies have been done here. How do we even go about doing that? I don’t know. I think our next step is to discuss what we heard here tonight at a future workstudy session.”
Michele Mihalovich: 392-6434, ext. 246, or firstname.lastname@example.org.