By Charlie Morasch
The Port of Los Angeles Harbor Commission recently learned some disturbing news about its billion-dollar truck replacement program.
Many of the trucks purchased so far aren’t being used enough, and some trucks haven’t been used at the port at all.
The port has reviewed progress of the first $44 million doled out to purchase 2,200 trucks for motor carriers this past year.
At an early March meeting, harbor commissioners learned that about 70 percent of the trucks the port purchased through the grant program haven’t met the minimum number of port calls required by contract. It was reported that 393 trucks – nearly
20 percent of the trucks – hadn’t made any port calls.
“Of a number of trucks that we did incentivize, a good number of the trucks don’t even have our tags,” said Cindy Miscikowski, Harbor Commission president. “They almost used us as a bank to get the money.”
One of the biggest recipients of port truck grants was mega-carrier Swift Transportation, which received a reported $20,000 per truck in grants. Swift was issued a check last year for $8.24 million to buy 412 trucks through the program.
A port official confirmed to Land Line that Swift was one trucking company with many trucks not meeting the minimum port call requirement.
“Out of all the trucking firms, Swift by and large had the most trucks used maybe one time,” said Arley Baker, senior director of communications for the port.
In early April, the port was preparing to respond to several requests for the list of motor carriers that received truck replacement money but that made zero or few port calls.
Joe Rajkovacz, OOIDA director of regulatory affairs, said the manipulation by large motor carriers to take port grant money and use trucks elsewhere hurts the port and small-business truckers.
“This is a typical example of larger motor carriers siphoning grant money to subsidize their operations,” Rajkovacz said. “They undermine legitimate small businesses.”
OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer said the carriers who moved the trucks away from the port may accept the $4,000 penalty.
“As for only having to maybe pay back $4,000 from a $20,000 grant – Bernie Madoff would love that deal,” Spencer said. LL