By Sandi Soendker, managing editor
OOIDA has weighed in regarding a current legal skirmish between the American Trucking Associations and the Port of Los Angeles over controversial provisions in the port’s emissions clean-up plan. The case, first filed in 2007, is currently in an appeal stage and seeks to reverse a ruling by a U.S. District Court.
On Jan. 4, OOIDA filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in support of the position of ATA and on behalf of owner-operators.
In September 2010, the U.S. District Court rendered a decision that rejected ATA’s challenge to the port’s requirement that drayage operators begin hiring only truck drivers who are company drivers. The decision backed a “concessionaires” program that essentially banned owner-operators.
In October, ATA won an injunction to halt the ban and has since appealed the independent contractor issue to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, stating that the lower court misinterpreted several sections of federal law.
At the core of the hullaballoo is who will pay for the ambitious Clean Truck Program. The port is convinced its plan is best accomplished if the independent truckers at the ports become employees. ATA objects to the plan that would have motor carriers picking up the bill for new trucks and making independent contractors employees and therefore potential Teamster members.
The port – backed by the Teamsters, environmentalists, and the City of L.A. – contends that those independent contractors can ill afford newer trucks, as required by the program. The plan views trucking companies as more capable of keeping drivers in newer trucks. Supporters also believe the motor carriers would be more accountable, have better maintenance practices, and be more likely to be able to carry on the program in the future. OOIDA finds this an “unfounded and baseless” concept about owner-operators.
OOIDA submitted the brief in large part to respond to this misperception.
In the OOIDA brief, the Association states that the District Court relied upon “incorrect and denigrating assumptions about owner-operator drivers that were unsupported by the trial record.” The brief points out that the port’s assumptions regarding owner-operators’ safe maintenance of their equipment was not supported by the evidence.
“The trial court based its decision on a very narrow view of the trucking industry and bought into a demeaning description of owner-operators and the beneficial role they play in goods movement nationally,” said OOIDA Director of Regulatory Affairs Joe Rajkovacz.
He said the court clearly did not “get” what the role of independent contractors is at this port and at all other ports, as well.
“Their understanding is monolithic, in fact. And has led to a flawed decision.”
Rajkovacz said the decision by Judge Christine Snyder, if allowed to stand, could be used to ban owner-operator driven trucks from entering any port nationwide.
“That is a consequence that we will oppose.” LL