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ARDOT unveils reduced emissions trucks bought as part of settlement

Michael Hibblen
Arkansas Department of Transportation Director Lorie Tudor speaks at a press conference Friday in front of newly-purchased trucks that have lower emissions than the department's older vehicles.

The Arkansas Department of Transportation is adding seven new diesel-powered trucks that have reduced emissions compared to the rest of its fleet. While that’s just a tiny fraction of the hundreds of vehicles used by the department, officials celebrated their arrival.

On Friday, the shiny clean white diesel-powered vehicles were parked outside one of the department’s offices in Little Rock. Four are tractor trucks and three are dump trucks.

“This is a win-win situation,” said Marie Holder, a member of the Arkansas Highway Commission. “Not only does ARDOT receive these cleaner running vehicles that decrease nitrogen oxide emissions, but it also means the department’s use of these vehicles is a step in the right direction when it comes to pollution, mitigation and prevention.”

Funding for the trucks comes from $14.6 million that was the state’s allocation of a settlement with Volkswagen. The carmaker is obligated to pay $2.7 billion to an environmental mitigation trust stemming from a lawsuit filed by the U.S. and the State of California which accused the company of equipping some vehicles with emissions control defeat devices, which resulted in up to 40% higher nitrogen oxide emissions.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson named the Arkansas Department of Energy and Environment as the lead agency in 2017 to develop and apply a plan to make use of the state’s portion of the trust funds. Department Cabinet Secretary Becky Keogh said the plan had been reviewed by the governor and identified several programs that would benefit from the money.

Department of Transportation Director Lorie Tudor said the new trucks cost $1.1 million, with funding coming from the State Agency Fleet Emissions Reduction (SAFER) grant. The money is intended to assist state agencies in replacing medium and heavy-duty diesel trucks and and buses.

Michael Hibblen
The seven new low emission vehicles that have been bought by the Department of Transportation.

The new trucks will replace seven older vehicles that ranged from models released in 2001 to 2009. To get reimbursed for the cost, ARDOT will have to provide documentation proving the seven older trucks were retired.

“With today’s automotive technologies, the trucks will result in cleaner emissions as they’re used day-to-day by our crews,” Tudor said.

The remaining funds from the state’s allocation of the settlement will be used for other programs designed to reduce harmful emissions.

“As part of the SAFER program, ARDOT will provide cordial progress reports and a final report containing a project summary, cause, lessons learned, and challenges and successes encountered to the Arkansas Department of Energy and Environment,” Tudor said.

One program is intended to expand electric vehicle charging stations. Keogh said proposals are being accepted through the end of April for EV fast chargers, which charge vehicles more quickly than standard charging stations.