Turn Off Your Truck: Central Valley Teens Campaign to Cut Emissions

Theresa Moreno, 15, talks to a trucker about strategies to reduce pollution. (Alice Daniel/KQED)

Theresa Moreno, 15, talks to a trucker about strategies to reduce pollution. (Alice Daniel/KQED)

At the intersection of I-5 and Highway 41 lies Kettleman City, a frequent stop for big-rig truckers. But drivers often leave their trucks idling while they have a meal, and residents worry about the resulting air pollution. As part of our first-person health series “Vital Signs,” we hear from two people: Theresa Moreno and Maricela Mares-a la Torre, a community organizer with Greenaction. She trains young people to talk to truckers about air pollution. Mares-a la Torre begins:

What we find is that a lot of the truckers that are stopped up here at the junction, they’re going into the restaurants, they’re hanging out, checking their email, eating their lunch, and they’re letting their trucks idle because supposedly, they don’t want the air conditioning to turn off. But that’s against the law.

We’ve trained our youth to go out and talk to truckers about idling and diesel emission safety. We try to go out in pairs just because it makes you a little braver if you’re with somebody, and truckers can be, you know, a little bit gruff.

Mares-a la Torre watches as 15-year-old Theresa Moreno approaches a truck driver, near his rig.

“Hi. My name is Theresa Moreno. I’m here handing this flyer on behalf of Greenaction. I want to talk to about the safety as a trucker. As you know, the diesel is harmful, you’re aware of California idling laws. But did you know that you can get help to upgrade your truck? There’s more information on this flyer.”

“Okay, thank you. Thank you for the information,” the driver replies.

Moreno explains why she got involved:

Well, I have asthma. Which many of us in the town have asthma. I know when I was smaller, I couldn’t be outside for an hour cause the next day I would wake up sick.

Why can’t they just turn off their truck? Whenever we go to a store, we turn off our truck or our car and we go inside the store. It’s cool right? And we go back in our car, of course it’s hot. I mean, we rough it out. You have to put down the windows. You’re good.

It feels pretty good to go up to a trucker. You feel like you’re making a change. To help change the world little by little by little. Make it a better place to live.

Mares-a la Torre tells Moreno she did a good job.

“You got the information in their hands,” she tells Moreno, “and that’s what’s important.”

This story was reported by Alice Daniel.

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