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

9_8_08_port.jpg

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:

“The
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
another."

Photo: Chrisnu/Flickr

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