Cargo Handling Equipment (CHE) Best Practices to Improve Air Quality
- Best Clean
This webpage is one in a series of pages that provide information on best practices at ports to reduce diesel pollution and associated health impacts. Select another topic from the menu above to explore other clean air best practices in the ports sector.
Cargo handling equipment (CHE) plays an important role in port operations, the economy, and air quality. The CHE sector encompasses a wide variety of equipment types such as yard tractors, forklifts, and cranes used for moving cargo around a port or other freight terminal, and on and off marine vessels, railcars, and trucks. The mix of CHE at a given port can vary widely depending on the types of cargo the port handles. This page describes a number of best practices that port authorities, terminal operators, and other equipment operators can adopt to reduce port-related emissions from cargo handling equipment.
On this page:
While the examples on this web page are not exhaustive, they are intended to highlight some of the more effective strategies that have been adopted by U.S. ports. The appropriateness and effectiveness of these strategies will vary for different ports based on many factors, including type of operation, fleet makeup, local air quality and pollutant exposure, and community and port priorities. This web page will be updated over time as new clean air practices emerge and information evolves.
Newer cargo handling equipment (CHE) pollutes significantly less than older models. Retiring older pieces of equipment or diesel engines and replacing them with newer models can play a major role in reducing air pollution at ports. In 2004, EPA finalized regulatory standards to reduce particulate matter and nitrogen oxide emissions from new nonroad diesel engines by more than 90 percent when fully implemented. Examples of CHE upgrades that meet or exceed new emissions standards include:
- Replacing older yard trucks with Tier 4 diesel or all-electric trucks.
- Upgrading older diesel-powered rubber tire gantry (RTG) cranes with Tier 4 engines (also known as “repowering” engines), converting them to all-electric, or installing hybrid energy storage systems that use energy captured from braking to supplement diesel power.
- Upgrading older diesel-powered container handlers with Tier 4 engines or replacing them with all-electric versions.
While upgrading any older model will yield emission benefits, you can maximize benefits by upgrading the oldest CHE with the highest annual hours of operation first. Consistent with eligibility requirements in EPA’s DERA program, the CHE you upgrade should have operated at least 1,000 hours per year for the past two years and have at least three years of remaining life to maximize emissions benefits.
Alternatives to Buying New CHE Equipment or Engines
For older equipment and engines that you have no plan to replace soon, consider retrofitting the equipment with exhaust emissions reduction technology, including diesel particulate filters (DPFs) and diesel oxidation catalysts (DOCs).
- National Ports Strategy Assessment: Reducing Air Pollution and Greenhouse Gases at U.S. Ports - pages 56-68 (pdf)(pp 180, 2.6 MB, September 2016, EPA-420-R-16-011)
- 2018 Implementation Report - Northwest Ports Clean Air Strategy (pp.16-20)
- EPA and Port of Everglades Partnership: Emission Inventories and Reduction Strategies-(Section 6)(pdf) (135 pp, 2.8 MB, June 2018, EPA-420-R-18-013)
- EPA’s Verified Technologies List for Clean Diesel lists diesel retrofit technologies that EPA has approved or conditionally approved.
- California Air Resources Board – Technology Assessment: Mobile Cargo Handling Equipment (pdf) (83 pp, 1.8 MB, November 2015)
- Diesel Retrofit and Replacement Projects: Quantifying and Using Their Emission Benefits in SIPs and Conformity, Guidance for State and Local Air and Transportation Agencies (pdf) (65 pp, 1 MB, March 2018, EPA-420-B-18-017)
Tips on Performance Targets and Data Collection
- Consider setting goals to increase the average Tier performance level of CHE operating at your port/terminal, or the percentage of annual operating hours performed by CHE equipped with higher-Tier engines.
- Track the annual hours of operation and engine Tier for each piece of CHE operating at your port/terminal.
- Port of Baltimore – Cargo Handling Equipment Repower and Replacement Program
- Georgia Port Authority – Electric Gantry Cranes
- Northwest Seaport Alliance – Electrical Terminal Tractors Project
- Virginia Port Authority Hybrid Shuttle Carriers Reduce Costs and Air Emissions
- Port of Long Beach - Zero-Emissions Cargo Handling Equipment
Optimizing loading and unloading performed by CHE can increase port efficiency while reducing emissions. To help streamline cargo handling operations across a port, port operators can consider implementing a port management information system (PMIS) to electronically track and coordinate CHE use. Primarily designed for container operations, integrated CHE management can improve the efficiency of manual CHE operations, as well as enable increased automation, allowing for more rapid loading and unloading of trucks. A PMIS generally requires access to detailed, up-to-date information on ship, truck, and container location, as well as yard space. By combining these data streams, a PMIS can provide better container routing and storage decisions, resulting in more efficient allocation of CHE. For instance, PMIS can inform yard operators in advance which containers need to be staged for loading at what times.
Tips on Performance Targets and Data Collection
- Consider setting goals to decrease CHE operating time per unit of cargo moved (e.g., hours per TEU).
- Measure CHE hours of use through hour-meter readings, where available, or from interviews or surveys with terminal operators. If hour usage is not available for individual equipment units in the fleet, averages by equipment type operating at the same terminal (if available) or port can be used.