Phoenix replacing more diesel-fueled garbage trucks with environmentally friendlier natural gas vehicles

PHOENIX – For Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, garbage and recycling day has become a weekly holiday she and her 3-year-old son celebrate.

“We have to go out and wave to the garbage trucks,” Gallego said. “Sometimes they’ll honk for him, and we have special permission from our neighbors to celebrate garbage day and it’s just a real treat.”

Every time the Gallego family greeted the truck, they had an almost 40% chance of waving at a large, heavy-duty diesel vehicle, which contribute to tailpipe emissions across the city.

In an effort to continue reducing emissions in metro Phoenix, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Gallego, and officials from state and local agencies announced Thursday steps to advance the national Cleaner Trucks Initiative in Phoenix.

Led by the EPA, the initiative aims to reduce nitrogen oxide and other pollutants from heavy-duty truck engines by establishing more stringent emission standards.

The EPA granted the city’s Public Works Department $1 million to replace 10 diesel trucks with trucks powered by compressed natural gas, which emit ultra-low levels of nitrogen oxide.

“We are trying to look at how we can manage taxpayer dollars most effectively to minimize the costs to people who get trash and recycling service from the city of Phoenix,” Gallego said. “We’re also making it a priority to reduce emissions.”

Public Works officials said the grant will fund nine additional CNG solid waste trucks and one CNG long haul truck, saving more than 75,000 gallons of diesel fuel. The new trucks will increase the number of CNG trucks in Phoenix to 162, leaving only 88 diesel trucks in service.

Phoenix will order the trucks next month, and they’re scheduled to be in service by March 2021.

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego announced Thursday that the city has received a $1 million grant from the EPA to replace 10 of the city’s diesel trucks with vehicles powered by compressed natural gas, which emit much less nitrogen oxide. (Photo by Christopher Howley/Cronkite News)

“To make these changes and be able to walk the walk and assure that city vehicles have low emissions is really important for our families,” said City Councilman Carlos Garcia, who represents District 8, which covers parts of central and south Phoenix. “We’re really excited that the city is hoping to lead and making sure that the rest of the state is conscious of emissions.”

According to United Health Foundation, Arizona ranks just behind California for having the most polluted air in the country. The American Lung Association ranks metro Phoenix in the top 10 for high ozone days out of 228 U.S. metropolitan areas.

Adding these new CNG solid waste trucks are part of the larger goal that the EPA plans on meeting with the Clean Trucks Initiative: reducing emissions in trucks everywhere.

“Through this initiative, we will modernize heavy-duty truck engines, improving their efficiency and reducing their emissions, which will lead to a healthier environment,” said Mike Stoker, EPA Pacific Southwest regional administrator. “We all want cleaner air, and the big takeaway is one of the huge areas that we can get cleaner air from is with clean trucks.”

Even with the addition of the CNG trucks, Gallego is not ready to stop finding ways to cut emissions.

“We are absolutely looking at how we can have the best vehicle fleet possible,” Gallego said. “We’re very proud of the leadership role we’re playing as the city of Phoenix … so we are looking at all of the city’s programs and trying to lead the way.”

Video by Madison Staten/Cronkite News

Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Christopher Howley expects to graduate in December 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. He is a digital reporter for Cronkite Sports and has worked as a sustainability reporter.