A large group of African immigrant truck drivers in Puget Sound, who drive for meager wages, are being ensnared in a 2007 federal law requiring lower diesel truck emission levels to promote cleaner air.
KVI's John Carlson and Kirby Wilbur interviewed an Issaquah, Wash. trucking company co-owner Alemu Haile who contracts with 15 drivers and he says the rule which was intended to go into effect on January 1, 2018 is incredibly costly to meet.
"We really, really love to breathe the fresh air," Haile says about the rule's environmental intentions. "We (would) love to change our trucks but there is not a good truck in the industry that we can buy and be on the road (in compliance)."
"A lot of drivers they (are) pretty afraid 'cause all 2007 and newer trucks they don't work well on the local," Haile tells KVI, referring to diesel trucks navigating shorter local routes usually fraught with freeway and surface street traffic congestion.
Haile explains, "All the trucks 2007 and newer we are facing so many issues. I can tell you...two drivers they have 2009 Freightliner and Volvo. They spent more than they buy the truck('s) expense. Now they park the newer truck (2009) and then purchased all their 2004 Freightliner (trucks) and use (them). Because the system (trucks) not designed for local, they're (the post-2007 tucks) designed for long haul."
According to Haile, the difference between short haul (local) and long haul capability impacts the bottom line for drivers waiting to pick up cargo at the Tacoma and Seattle Ports. He says driver's don't get paid by the hour, "all our independent contractors...get paid by containers", referring to the payload they can pick up at anyone time from the port and complete the delivery to the customer.