Arkansas Department of Transportation’s new trucks cost $1.1 million and emit fewer pollutants

State environmental officials say seven new heavy-duty trucks purchased by the Arkansas Department of Transportation under a special program will emit 17.3 tons less smog-forming pollutant than vehicles that they replace.

The $1.1 million the cleaner-burning trucks will cost will come from the $14.7 million that was awarded to the state following two partial consent decrees totaling $2.7 billion in a case filed against Volkswagen, accusing the automaker of violating federal clean air law, the department says.

Volkswagen sold over 500,000 diesel-powered vehicles from 2009 to 2016 that contained devices to circumvent vehicle emission controls. The devices cause up to 40% more nitrogen oxide emissions during normal driving.

Arkansas’ share of Environmental Mitigation Trust funds is designed to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions primarily by replacing older, high-emitting vehicles with newer models that burn cleaner.

Agency officials showed off their new vehicles Friday at the Equipment and Procurement Division building off Baseline Road in Little Rock. The trucks have replaced the most polluting vehicles in the department’s fleet, according to an analysis by the Arkansas Department of Energy and Environment, which administers the trust fund.

The trucks, which include three dump trucks, replace trucks that are 13 to 21 years old.

“With today’s automotive technology, these new trucks will result in cleaner emissions as they are used daily by our crews,” said Lorie Tudor, Arkansas Department of Transportation Director.

The money was awarded under the state agency’s Fleet Emissions Reduction Grant program, which set aside 8%, or $1.1 million, of the settlement money. Volkswagen destined for Arkansas.

“The DOT gave us a very competitive proposal and we were happy to award this money for these vehicles,” said Becky Keogh, Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Energy and Environment.

Other programs in the state’s mitigation plan include one that will fund up to 75% of the purchase price of up to 20 low-emission compressed natural gas buses in three Arkansas school districts. A total of $7.9 million, or 54%, was allocated to this program. All have been approved by the trustee of the national Volkswagen trust, Keogh said.

A total of $3.1 million was allocated to projects, including the purchase of Department of Transportation trucks. Less than a million dollars have been spent.

The Department of Transport will not receive its money until it can prove that the seven trucks replaced under its grant have been scrapped. Often trucks can fetch fair prices at auction, but the program is designed to eliminate trucks as future sources of pollution.

A reduction in the number of diesel-powered vehicles will help reduce nitrogen oxides, a family of toxic and reactive gases that form when fuel is burned at high temperatures, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. They form from emissions from cars, trucks, buses, power plants and off-road equipment, such as construction machinery and boats.

Nitrogen oxide pollution often appears as a brownish gas and, as a strong oxidizing agent, plays a major role in atmospheric reactions with volatile organic compounds that produce ozone, or smog. , on hot summer days, the EPA said.

Few Arkansas organizations have more fossil fuel-burning vehicles than the department’s fleet, which is needed to help maintain the 16,000-mile national highway system.

The department has about 700 trucks, including 360 multi-axle trucks like the seven 2021 Freightliner 1145SDs, three of which are dump trucks. They represent 1% of the fleet.

But Danny Keene, head of the department’s equipment and supply division, said the new trucks replace the most polluting trucks in the fleet, based on analysis by Keogh’s agency.

They were the worst diesel vehicles we had and would have the biggest impact on our carbon footprint,” Keene said. “Every little bit counts.”

Replacing higher-emission trucks with cleaner-burning ones is a “win-win” for the environment because the department relies so heavily on it, said Little Rock Arkansas Highway Commission member Marie Holder.

“I can guarantee you…these vehicles will be in use every day,” she said.

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