SPECIAL REPORT: OOIDA official to deliver comments to port officials

| 3/18/2008

Long-haul truckers have been lost in the shuffle in the recent campaign to clean up dirty trucks at ports up and down the West Coast, OOIDA officials believe, so the Association is sending one of its own to represent long haulers.

The Port of Long Beach recently approved a concessionaire plan to limit access to ports to a number of approved companies. The Port of Oakland was scheduled to formally consider a similar concessionaire program Tuesday evening, March 18. Officials with the Port of Los Angeles are scheduled to consider their own concessionaire plan Thursday, March 20, to limit port calls to employee drivers.

Joe Rajkovacz, OOIDA’s regulatory affairs specialist who racked up 50,000 air miles in 2007 while testifying on behalf of the nation’s truck drivers, will head to Los Angeles Wednesday and plans to address the Los Angeles Harbor Commission during its meeting Thursday morning.

An estimated 16,000 local drayage drivers move containers from the twin ports at Long Beach and Los Angeles in the area around the ports. Residency documentation requirements of the Transportation Worker Identification Credential program are expected to cut 20 percent of that work force.

Plans to eliminate older, dirty trucks and address the shortcomings of the drayage industry would lock out long haulers making occasional deliveries, and could lead to excessive fees leveraged by those with port access, OOIDA has told the ports, the California Air Resources Board and the Federal Maritime Commission.

Los Angeles’ latest proposal would require all trucks admitted into the port to submit to maintenance and safety checks, even during a five-year transition period when all non-employee trucks would be phased out of the port.

Regardless of which plan Los Angeles port officials end up approving, the “clean truck” programs can’t legally interfere with interstate commerce, Rajkovacz said.

“Trucks engaged in interstate commerce should have unfettered, unrestricted access to the ports,” Rajkovacz told Land Line Tuesday. “Otherwise, the goals sought by their entire clean trucks program are at risk.”

Several organizations have threatened to file legal action and tie up the port clean truck programs in Long Beach and Los Angeles, including the Natural Resources Defense Council and the ATA.

On Monday, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa renewed his call for the L.A. port officials to approve the concessionaire plan.

“I urge the Harbor Commission to back this proposal,” Villaraigosa said in a written statement.

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer