Trucking Groups Takes Ports to Court Over “Clean Truck” Plan


What is more important, the health and safety of people living near ports or the cost to truckers and consumers of helping truck carriers meet modern environmental standards and fairness towards independent truckers?  That question could be answered later today when a federal court hears arguments from the American Trucking Association against the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

The ports, to the wild approval of local residents and environmental advocates concerned about air quality, have decided to ban all pre-1989 trucks from the ports beginning on October 1 and slowly raise the bar on emissions standards that by 2012 all trucks will meet 2007 emission standards.

Concerns about the "concession agreements" between the ports and truck contractors lie at the heart of the ATA’s lawsuit.  The plans the ports are proposing have been compared to agreements between landlords and tennants, giving the ports power over hiring practices, maintenance and employee health insurance.  The ATA argues that they are placing smaller carriers at a disadvantage, especially independent truckers that could be banned altogether from the Port of Los Angeles by 2012. 

While agreements have been reached between the ports and trucking companies representing literally thousands of truckers, the ATA is still concerned the agreements will have a long lasting negative impact on the industry.  From an ATA press release:

Port of Los Angeles’ further intrusion into the competitive structure
of the drayage market makes the ATA lawsuit even more important and
illustrates precisely the type of disruption of trucking services in
the economy that Congress found so inefficient and disruptive,” said
ATA President and CEO Bill Graves.
“Creating an artificial, non-competitive market with highly inflated
costs and prices hinders our national competitive ability and sets a
dangerous precedent.”

However, the ruling from today’s lawsuit may not have much impact on
the long term prospects of the "clean trucks" program.  Art Wong,
spokesperson for the Port of Long Beach, tells the Contra Costa Times:

"But regardless of what the
judge does, we will move ahead with the fee and the ban on dirty
trucks," Wong said. "It might be trickier without the concession
agreement, but we’re going to clean up these trucks one way or

Photo: Chrisnu/Flickr

  • Omri

    One way to would be to kick the truckers out altogether and use rail to receive those shipping containers.

    Then it could be electrified, and the area around the port would see vastly improved air quality.

  • Shelby

    And this magical rail could move every container to every destination? If this technology were feasible, even I, an employee of a California trucking company, would be behind it. The problem at hand here isn’t actually the move towards cleaner trucks, everyone is in favor of those and is of the understanding that cleaner trucks are an inevitable reality of the industry. The trucking companies and the CTA have greater issue with the way the new measures will (unconstitutionally) change how the businesses are run; they are trying to dictate who can do business under the umbrella of “green,” an important issue that is being abused in this case to essentially create a monopoly. And unfortunately their abuse seems to be working on the general public, evidenced by the previous comment.

  • Omri

    Last I heard, Shelvy, it’s not difficult to do an intermodal transfer from rail to truck, and there are plenty of facilities around the country to do that. And doing so outside of the LA valley means those trucks don’t add to the LA smog.

  • Shelby

    Whether that is accurate, probable, practical or otherwise, as I mentioned previously, is not the issue at hand in this case. The actual issue that I was addressing and that this case is addressing, or would be if people could read between the lines of what is being fed to them, is that the ports are attempting to impose regulations on trucking companies that are not related to the environment at all in order to create a monopoly under the guise of clean air. See what a good job they are doing!? You can’t even read past the first two sentences of my first comment and get to the point of my argument, as they have you so willingly blinded by the “clean air” aspect, which as I said before is a legitimate qualm if they were not using it to be deceptive. I hope this was clearer than my first post, I pride myself on being accurate both in spelling and content.

  • Lorenzo

    Working for an International Freight Forwarder and living in Long Beach, the port should crack down on the dirty trucks. The drivers and operators of these trucks are “dirty owners” and in many cases are not licensed and drive careless. I support the decision to ban them and it would be nice to see some responsibility put back on those who have no consideration for the enviroment or for those who live around it the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

  • tom politeo

    Electric trucks are in the future for short haul drayage in the port of Los Angeles, with a model demonstrated earlier this year. It’s fuel costs are five times less using electricity than diesel per mile. Besides being clean, the trucks are much quieter, which should help with night operations.

    Union Pacific is also looking at installing magnetic levitation (maglev) rail from the docks in the ports to its near dock intermodal container transfer facility (ICTF). This would also run entirely on electricity. The Port of Los Angeles is installing a 10 megawatt solar facility to help power all this.

    Through steps like these and the electrification of conventional rail (which has been done in Europe widely), the filthy and noisy goods movement industry will become much cleaner and quieter.

    Trucks will always haul “the last mile”, but the new trucks will make the ones we have today look like they are from the stone age. Ditto for the new trains.

  • Shelby, I get where your coming from. Back in the 70’s and early 80’s when I was an owner/operator transferring container freight, we were put against the wall by rising fuel prices, and large fleets owned by corporate interests wanted to put the rest of us out of business. I think that in this case the same is true, only under the guise of “green trucks”.


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