To sequester harmful emissions start with transportation – Part 1: Trucks

In any area with pernicious air pollution, you would think those living with such would be moved to do what they themselves can do to help in its reduction. I live in such a region – California’s San Joaquin Valley – and I, among a cohort of conscientious, concerned and interested area denizens, are actively involved in finding and implementing remedies to combat this area’s dreadfully dirty and unhealthful air.

360px-CBX_Parkchester_6_jeh[1]For me, personally, I felt a good place to start was to become more informed by reading about the issue from a variety of sources; not just in the local newspaper when articles or special installments on the matter ran. On Oct. 25, 2008, I attended locally what was called the “Transportation Energy and Fuels Forum” at Fresno City College, of which a principal topic of discussion was air pollution. Add to this the step I took to lower my own impact on air: trading in my air-polluting, gas-powered lawn mower for an electric model equipped with a rechargeable battery. Related to this, I wait for days when air is relatively clean and temperature relatively cool to mow. The two often go hand-in-hand.

The Valley, home to more than 10 percent of the Golden State’s 38,000,000-people population and covering an area of over 24,000 square miles, is, in effect, a bowl, bounded by mountains on the east, south and west. When there is wind it typically blows in from the northwest often carrying in it dust, dirt and other debris – pollution, in other words. The San Joaquin Valley (SJV), because of its unique topography and meteorology, makes it an ideal ozone (smog) and particle-pollutant trap. It is important to note asthma in this region is especially problematic with at least one-in-six children being affected.

According to SJV air-basin officials, mobile sources contribute 80 percent of the area’s nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions. Transport is a major contributor to air pollution in the region.

Understanding this, I seek to know more about the makeup of transportation in the Valley and for good reason, as in: If the mix of transportation – especially as it pertains to the movement of goods – can be altered in such a way so as to significantly reduce NOx and other harmful emissions while not compromising in any way, shape or form local economies, then shouldn’t such effort be pursued? I, for one, think such should be absolutely.

So, where did I look? A couple of places.

What I found.

For starters, just for NOx alone, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District in its Board Meeting Minutes for June 21, 2007 on page 3 stipulated: “With mobile source emissions constituting 80% of the Valley’s total NOx emissions, the bulk of the necessary emissions reduction must come from state and federal control measures for mobile sources. These measures will include more stringent tail-pipe standards for new on-road and off-road mobile sources, and regulations designed to accelerate the deployment of newer, cleaner engines.” Again, this was back in 2007.

So, for relevant perspective, in 2007, what was freight movement in the Valley like? For this, I consulted the “San Joaquin Valley Interregional Goods Movement Plan, Task 4: Commodity Flow Profile Technical Memorandum.”1

What I learned.

That year, a total of 425,306,232 tons of freight was moved by truck that either originated or terminated or both originated and terminated (an “intra-regional” movement) in the eight-county San Joaquin Valley.2 The breakdown: 90,785,933 tons were “outbound”; 109,783,686 tons were “inbound”; and 224,736,613 tons were “intra-regional”.3

Moreover, in total freight distribution terms for the Valley in 2007, a total of 463,198,141 tons of freight was moved by all modes (i.e. truck, rail, air and water) that originated, terminated or that both originated and terminated in the eight-county San Joaquin Valley.4 The breakdown: 101,742,937 tons were “outbound”; 136,408,919 tons were “inbound”; and 225,046,285 tons were “intra-regional”.5 Left over – or about 36,801,859 tons of freight in the Valley in 2007 – was through freight. In all in the Valley in 2007, close to 500 million tons of inbound, outbound, intra-regional and through freight total was transported.6

Meanwhile, rail accounted for roughly eight percent; water and air representing less than 1 percent each.7

As plain as day based on the numbers presented, it is clear to see that the bulk of the freight moving through, or either originating or terminating or both originating and terminating in the eight-county Valley is via truck. That much is clear.

Can more of this freight be transferred to and hence moved by air or rail? This aspect is to be explored in Part 2.


  1. “San Joaquin Valley Interregional Goods Movement Plan, Task 4: Commodity Flow Profile Technical Memorandum, prepared for San Joaquin Valley Regional Transportation Planning Agencies, prepared by Cambridge Systematics, Inc., with The Tioga Group, Inc., Fehr & Peers, Jock O’Connell,” June 2012
  2. Ibid, “Figure 3.4 Inbound, Outbound, and Intra-regional Truck Commodity Distribution (Percentages are of Non-through Flows) – 2007,” p. 3-6
  3. Ibid
  4. Ibid, “Figure 1.2 Tonnage Distribution in the SJV by Direction (Non-through Flows), 2007,” p. 1-3
  5. Ibid
  6. Ibid, p. 1-1
  7. Ibid, “Figure 1.1 Tonnage Distribution in the SJV by Mode, 2007,” p. 1-2

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