By Charlie Morasch
First, the Port of Los Angeles appeared to lash out at Swift Transportation and other motor carriers for accepting millions in grants toward the purchase of trucks, while not meeting agreed upon port visit requirements.
Now, it appears, the ports agree with Swift and the other companies that the economy is the chief villain to blame for a lack of activity among trucks provided by the port.
At a May 6 meeting, the Port of Los Angeles Harbor Commission was told by staff members that only 30 percent of the 2,000 trucks issued under the Truck Replacement Program as part of the Port’s Clean Trucks Program will meet incentive requirements of 300 trips per year. Nearly 400 trucks never made a single drayage haul.
Trucks from the Truck Replacement Program were subsidized in part by the port and accepted by motor carriers serving the port. For example, a Volvo 64T430 with a price of $97,122 cost applicants $30,122, with the additional $67,000 coming through the port’s grant program.
Port staff gave commissioners several options for lowering the requirement of port trips, including the “preferred option” of 150 trips required annually. Staff estimated that 70 percent of the 2,000 trucks would probably make that goal, Los Angeles Captain of the Port John Holmes said.
Holmes said the unpredictable collapse of the economy made the port’s previous required drayage haul numbers too difficult.
Several Los Angeles media outlets have reported that entities falling under the city government have been directed to boycott Arizona-based businesses following that state’s recent adoption of a controversial immigration law. The boycott could include mega-carriers Swift Transportation and Knight Transportation, which received millions last year to purchase new trucks.
Phillip Sanfield, a spokesman with the Port, said the harbor commission isn’t likely to sever its relationship with carriers. Combined, the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach originally planned to spend $2.2 billion on the Truck Replacement Programs.
“The money has been given out already,” Sanfield said. “For us to have control and accountability over the program, it seems it would make sense that we would keep the contract.”
Dave Berry, vice president at Swift and company spokesman, said the fundamental problem at the port is a supply of too many trucking companies and a weakened economy.
“There are too many drivers and not enough trips,” Berry said.
Why did so many Swift trucks that were bought with truck replacement program money make zero or one trip? Berry didn’t have an answer.
“I think you’d have to talk to the port,” Berry said. LL