Installing CHP inspection facility at Long Beach: laughable?

| 11/17/2009

A recent suggestion to include a California Highway Patrol inspection station at the Port of Long Beach will do little to hold accountable motor carriers for shoddy truck equipment under their control, one OOIDA representative said this week.

The Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles banned pre-1989 trucks from entering their ports beginning last year. By 2012, only trucks meeting 2007 model year or newer diesel engine emissions standards will be allowed at the ports.

The American Trucking Associations is scheduled to go to trial in its civil lawsuit against portions of the Port of Los Angeles clean trucks plan early next year, including requirements that only employee drivers be allowed at the port.

It recently settled its case against the Port of Long Beach, which has spurred protests from environmental groups and some labor-affiliated truck convoys.

Last week, the ATA issued a statement that mentioned the idea of the state highway patrol setting up an inspection station to ensure trucks meet safety and emissions requirements. ATA also said that carriers that repeatedly violate the rules could be reported to FMCSA, who could then revoke the carrier’s authority.

Joe Rajkovacz, OOIDA regulatory affairs specialist and a longtime truck driver, said the inspection station and threat of reporting repeat violators to FMCSA will do little to hold motor carriers accountable and will serve only to slow down truck drivers’ port visits.

“Putting a CHP inspection facility on the port is nothing more than window dressing that once again sounds great but is nothing more than trying to ‘close the door, after the cows have all left the barn,’ ” Rajkovacz said. “Shoddy equipment and maintenance practices will not be addressed unless the responsible motor carrier is held accountable – something they know does not necessarily happen under CHPs Biennial Inspection of Terminals program.”

Rajkovacz pointed to safety scandals in recent years involving motor coach companies who lost their authority but reopened after obtaining new authority. The ease in which companies can obtain new authority shows how ineffective the “yanking the authority” threat really is, Rajkovacz said.

“To pretend that the Port of Long Beach ‘threatening’ to file a complaint with FMCSA will change any motor carrier behavior is laughable,” Rajkovacz said. “Drivers are all too familiar with the indifference regulators have to driver complaints of serious violations of the FMCSRs. Not only does FMCSA have a spotty record on pulling the authority of bad actors, but the agency’s inability to stop bad motor carriers from reincarnating themselves through new authority means the Port of Long Beach shouldn’t think it will rid itself of ‘schleps.’ ”

– by Charlie Morasch, staff writer