California ports’ clean truck plan stalls at Federal Maritime Commission

By Charlie Morasch, Land Line staff writer | 4/3/2008

The twin ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles want to meet to hash over differences in each port’s “clean truck” plans, but the federal agency that oversees ports wants more information before it will allow such a meeting.

The Federal Maritime Commission announced on Wednesday, April 2, that it wants more information on the clean truck programs favored by each port before it will issue a decision on such a meeting.

The Port of Long Beach approved its own truck concessionaire program on Feb. 19. Long Beach will allow owner operators port entry, provided they pay hundreds of dollars, slap RFID tags on their trucks, submit maintenance records and meet a laundry list of other requirements.

Neighboring Los Angeles approved its port clean truck program on March 20. It limits port access to trucks that register, pay thousands in fees and submit to random safety checks.

Staff members from each port have been working together on the plans, according to Theresa Adams Lopez, a spokeswoman with the Port of Long Beach.

Long Beach has recently favored a plan that allows local owner-operators to continually gain access to the ports, whereas Los Angeles officials have favored a plan to require truck drivers to be company employees.

“We’ve been talking all along, even though the ports have taken different paths,” Adams Lopez said.

Both plans are designed to reduce truck emissions among the 16,000, mostly older and locally operated trucks that make multiple daily port calls at Los Angeles and Long Beach.

OOIDA is working with port officials to develop a day-pass or other system that would allow access to long haulers and other occasional port visitors.

The maritime commission should send its questions to each port by Thursday or Friday, Long Beach Port Spokesman Gordon Smith told Land Line.

Port communications workers have kept busy with the clean truck issue and the shooting of a reality television show at the twin ports, Smith said. The show, titled “America’s Port,” airs at 10 p.m. EST on Sunday nights beginning April 6 on the National Geographic Channel.

Port workers aren’t likely to see a slowdown anytime soon.

The ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles are expected to hand out $2.2 billion to replace or retrofit drayage trucks through a lease-purchase program, although Los Angeles will also offer up-front grants for truck purchases or a grant to retrofit a truck to meet 2007 standards.

Each port has approved an emission standard requiring all trucks to meet 2007 engine standards by the year 2012. The California Air Resources Board passed its own port regulation requiring all diesel trucks to meet 2007 emission standards by December 2013.

Joe Rajkovacz, OOIDA regulatory affairs specialist, said the maritime commission’s 45-day delay is a result of the ATA filing comments opposing certain portions of the clean truck plans.

“It’s really a delaying tactic if not an outright attempt to put the brakes on any efforts by the ports to implement a unified Clean Trucks Program that contains components not favored by large trucking interests,” Rajkovacz said. “OOIDA believes FMC should allow both ports to discuss how they may harmonize their individual plans.”

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer

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