A two-year-old Virginia Port Authority pilot program that provides truckers and trucking companies with low-cost financing to purchase diesel trucks with more emission-efficient engines or rebates to retrofit older models for efficiency is being expanded and rebranded.

The expansion comes in the form of $258,000 given to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality by the US Environmental Protection Agency National Clean Diesel Program. The money will be used specifically for expanding a local pilot program modeled after the federal SmartWay Transport Partnership. The pilot program’s success and the infusion of money led the VPA, the agency that oversees the local program, to rename it GO, which is short for Green Operator.

Virginia is the first state in nation to receive the federal money and build a program specifically for creating a cleaner, more fuel efficient fleet of local trucks.

“VPA’s SmartWay program, for a small pilot, was successful; there were a handful of owner-operators and companies that took advantage of the offer,” said Heather Mantz, the VPA’s environmental director. “We think the EPA money combined with a greater effort to raise awareness of the program will bring even more success. The interest is there and we believe there is enough money to assist with the retrofit of roughly 35 - 40 trucks this year.”

Mantz said the federal money for GO will be distributed over two years: $129,000 per annum. The VPA, the Mid-Atlantic Air Regional Management Association [MARAMA] and Virginia Clean Cities will cooperate to target independent truck owner-operators and large hauling firms to make them aware of the program. The rebates will be issued via MARAMA, but the GO program will be managed by the VPA.

“We will work to raise the awareness, make it successful and hope the federal government sees it as a success and continues to want to expand on what it provides to GO,” Mantz said. “We’ll have GO decals, an ongoing public relations effort and the sales and marketing team at Virginia International Terminals will talking about GO with their customers; the message will be, ‘If greening your supply chain is important, here is a list of companies that use GO trucks.’ ”

The bulk of the 2009 money will be spent on retrofitting trucks owned and operated by three companies participating in the VPA’s SmartWay program. Those companies have upgraded some vehicles and will use the GO program to continue the work. The Evans Network [Century Express and Evans Delivery are the local affiliates], C&K Trucking and Andy’s Trucking voluntarily joined SmartWay last year.

The program brings together lenders and truck dealers under a special extended-term loan offer designed to help truckers buy new, more low emission and fuel-efficient rigs. The loans can be used to finance upgrades to existing trucks for things like fuel-saving auxiliary power units, wide-based tires and improving the aerodynamics of tractors and trailers.

In addition to the savings, truckers can profit by taking advantage of the GO program. Through their membership they will be eligible to qualify for increased business from shippers that made a commitment to EPA to deliver at least 50% of their cargo with cleaner trucks.

In late 2009, the GO program plans to issue a request for proposals targeting truckers and firms that would like to participate in the program in 2010.