Scientists agree that diesel fumes can cause cancer and other respiratory disease, but what can we do with all those old diesel-spewing freight trucks on the highway?

“Diesel engines last forever,” says Corky Collier, executive director of the Columbia Corridor Association. Even when a trucking company invests in a new clean-diesel truck, they typically sell the old one, which keeps polluting the air under new ownership.

Collier’s group has a small idea it hopes will lead to bigger change.

The Columbia Corridor Association won a $345,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this week to help retire six old diesel freight trucks and replace them with new clean-diesel models.

The money will be shared with three Oregon trucking companies: McCracken Freight and Green Transfer, both from Portland; and JNB of Eugene. Each will commit to buying two clean-diesel trucks, and pay roughly 60 percent of the cost, with the rest coming from the EPA grant, Collier says.

The three companies offer drayage truck service, essentially shipping freight from port to rail and back, mostly inside urban areas. So replacing drayage trucks is “focusing on where the real problem is with diesel,” Collier says. Long-haul trucks also spew toxic fumes, but they spend most of their time in sparsely populated areas.

The three drayage companies must agree to turn their old trucks into scrap, by drilling holes through the engine block and cutting up the chassis. It will be Collier’s job to assure that occurs.

Clean-diesel trucks filter the air so well that there’s more harmful particulate matter coming into their engines than being emitted out their tailpipes, Collier says.

“The more of these we get up here, the more people start to understand that the clean diesel engines are really quite nice,” he says.

Collier worked closely on the grant application with Kevin Downing, the Clean Diesel Program Coordinator for the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

Steve Law can reached at 503-546-5139 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Twitter: @SteveLawTrib

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