LAREDO, Texas (Border Report) — A South Texas nonprofit organization has launched a program to encourage Mexican and other truckers to safely keep on trucking north of the border and is discouraging them from idling on roadsides, which releases dangerous diesel fumes.
The Rio Grande International Study Center’s Clean Truck Initiative this month is offering 50% off vouchers to commercial drivers who power down and park their big rigs in special spots at participating truck stops throughout Laredo. The truck stops have special idle mitigation equipment that extracts the diesel fumes, but allows truckers to get AC/heat, electricity and even WiFi as they rest their rigs for several hours.
“The whole goal of it was to get truckers and fleet managers just planting these seeds that you save money, you help the planet, you protect peoples’ health by reducing idling emissions,” Tricia Cortez, executive director of the Rio Grande International Study Center, told Border Report on Thursday.
The organization received a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to offer the program, which is managed by the North American Development Bank (NADBank). The goal is to reduce diesel air pollution, and create greater awareness of affordable options to decrease engine idling and increase profit margins for commercial drivers, Cortez said.
“Diesel emissions can be harmful to people and our planet,” Cortez said. “This is Laredo’s first proactive step in building a cleaner trade industry. The benefits of lowering air pollution can’t be understated: Nearly 30% of our entire population lacks access to any type of health insurance.”
Laredo’s four vehicular land ports have the most commercial vehicles of any port system in the United States, and in March 2019 briefly surpassed Los Angeles as having the most incoming value of goods into the United States.
Thousands of 18-wheelers each day cross north into Laredo, Texas, using Mexico’s Super Highway, also called the NAFTA Highway, bringing them from Mexico City through the towns of Santiago de Querétaro, San Luis Potisi, Monterrey and Nuevo Laredo into South Texas, where they hook up with Interstate 35 that takes them to Austin and points north into the interior of the United States.
But all those trucks bring with them a lot of diesel fumes and that can be harmful to residents’ health, especially when the truckers rest their rigs and leave them idling by the side of roadways or truck stops, during their mandatory rest breaks.
U.S. law requires that for every 11 hours of driving and/or 14 hours of truck-related ground work, an operator is required to rest for 10 hours. Oftentimes, to save money, truckers park on the side of roads, in parks or rest stops or truck stops and leave their engines idling in order to keep their cabs cool and electricity flowing.
IdleAir, a company based out of Knoxville, Tennessee, produces special equipment that trucks can hook up to that sucks out the fumes while still allowing AC/heat and WiFi to the vehicle. The cost is usually from $1.50 to $2.00 per hour, depending on the location, but throughout November and into early December, truckers can park at two participating truck stops in Laredo and receive 50% off the use of this special equipment.
“It’s instead of having their engines on,” said Edgar Cañamar, the operations director for IdleAir who is based in Laredo and provides outreach to truck fleets in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. “When a diesel engine is on it’s burning diesel and it’s producing CO2 in the environment so using our service the engine is off and they use our AC.”
“When a driver stops for a delivery or for loading the engine is on in order to get the air conditioner (to work). But in order to avoid this they can plug into our services. So it’s easier and is of course cleaner,” Cañamar said.
Participating truck stops with the IdleAir equipment in Laredo include the Flying J at 1011 Beltway Pkwy.; and the Pilot at 1101 Uniroyal Drive. Five other area truck stops are providing information on the program and giving out vouchers including TA Truck Service, 1010 Beltway Pkwy. in Laredo; Fuel America, 13602 Mines Rd., Laredo; Road Ranger, 45 E TX-44, Encinal, Texas; Fuel America/Valero, 23183, I-35, Encinal; and the Love’s Travel Stop, 28527 I-35, Encinal.
Cañamar says it’s particularly important to help reduce emissions in Mexico, which does not regulate truckers as strictly as the United States. Although Mexican law requires commercial drivers to rest every eight to 10 hours of driving, Cañamar says most companies do not keep driver logs and authorities do not check how many hours truckers work.
Cañamar said the company, which started in 2015, is growing exponentially in Mexico and is working with several trucking fleets in Nuevo Laredo, five of which have built these devices on their company lots. One fleet has 72 spaces for their drivers to hook in and rest without adding to air pollution, he said. IdleAir also is constructing its first truck stop in the port city of Manzanillo in the state of Colima, which will have 24 spaces and should be open by February.
“The whole idea is to grow the company as much as we can in Mexico and to install in other cities across the border,” he said.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com.