Pacific Institute

The high cost of health, environment, and worker impacts of the Oakland port trucking system

As the fifth largest container port in the United States, the Port of Oakland is an important hub for the movement of consumer goods in and out of the region, California, and the country. The regional economic benefits of the Port include trade and logistics transactions, business taxes and revenues, and job creation. However, the economic benefits of the Port are not shared equally among residents, workers, and surrounding communities. To add to this inequity, some neighborhood residents and workers bear more than their fair share of the 'real costs' of the pollution and other impacts created by the movement of container cargo.

This research brif focuses on the public and externalized costs of the health, environmental, and worker impacts related to the Port of Oakland, specifically focusing on port trucks. These public costs - borne by taxpayers, community residents, and workers-include healthcare for uninsured port truck drivers and the environmental health costs shouldered by residents in Oakland. The current trucking system contributes to the regional public cost of neighborhood, workers, and resident health in the following ways:

1. The diesel emissions from port trucks pollute surrounding neighbo rhoods and contribute to premature death, asthma, increased cancer risk, and other diseases. We estimate that the economic cost to the Bay Area of these health impacts reaches at least $153 million annually.

2. A dditional costs to residential neighborhoods include noise and vibration, reduced pedestrian visibility, lower neighborhood walkability, and increased environmental stress.

3. Without employee status, port truck drivers do not have employer-based health insurance and a majority of drivers and their family-members therefore go without medical coverage. The lack of insurance places a burden on public healthcare facilities—resulting in nearly $4.5 million in public or charity healthcare costs throughout the Bay Area.

4. Other costs of Port operations are borne by port truck drivers who face unhealthy working conditions and a lack of workers’ compensation when they are injured on the job. Without employee status, port drivers are not protected by occupational safety and health standards or workers’ compensation. This results in a greater risk of unhealthy working conditions, with no safety net to cover healthcare costs when drivers are injured on the job.

Trucks at the Port of Oakland are a significant contributor to diesel and non-diesel health impacts in the San Francisco Bay Area. The good news is that for every dollar invested into reducing air pollution from the movement of goods in California, three-to-eight dollars are saved by avoided health impacts. By fixing the broken trucking system, the Port of Oakland has the opportunity to significantly reduce public environmental and health costs.

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