The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach began collecting fees from pre-2007 diesel trucks this week as part of a Clean Trucks Program aimed at getting polluting rigs off the road.

Under the program, the ports will charge cargo owners $35 per 20-foot container transported by diesel trucks made before 2007. The fees will help fund an incentive program that gives companies $20,000 toward each new qualifying trucks put into service by Jan. 15.

The program has a goal of reducing truck pollution at the ports by 80 percent. In October, the ports banned trucks made in 1988 trucks and older, which impacted between an estimated 500 and 2,000 trucks, according to Chris Cannon, the Clean Trucks Program manager at the Port of Los Angeles. There are plans to phase out trucks built before 1993 beginning Jan. 1, 2010, and all trucks built before 2007 will be banned from the ports beginning in 2012.

The ports were supposed to begin collecting the fees in October but were delayed because of challenges over some aspects of the program, including a potential "concessionaire" agreement outlawing independent owner-operator trucks after 2013. "I think the industry agrees with the overall environmental issues of the older trucks and replacing them with cleaner trucks," said Curtis Whalen, executive director of the Intermodal Motor Carriers Conference, an affiliate of the American Trucking Association. "Where we fall off is the concessionaire program requirements, which we believe are illegal."

The money from the fees, once estimated to reach as much as $1 million a day, will help pay more than 100 companies that have applied for the incentive program originally designed to help subsidize the replacement of 2,200 trucks.

The Port of Los Angeles said Wednesday it now has about 3,000 Clean Truck Program-compliant trucks in service, with plans to create a 2009 incentive program to bring more newer rigs into the fold by 2010.

Thirty-five new trucks that will receive the cash incentive are owned by National Retail Systems (NRS), the New Jersey-based logistics provider that has deployed a total of 115 compliant trucks to work the ports. The company updated its fleet to shield existing customers from the fees, but it also justified the expense with the expectation of adding new customers who will avoid paying the container fees, said Andy Miller, senior vice president of West Coast operations at NRS.

He recently attended the annual Retail Industry Leaders Association Logistics conference in Dallas where many were grappling with the realization that the fee collection was finally moving forward. "Do you have clean air vehicles," he was asked more than once, "that could pick up our freight?"