Bill targeting trucks' waiting time at ports suffers a blow

| 4/11/2005

A bill that continued California’s battle against ports that force trucks to wait – and idle – suffered a blow April 5 when a Senate committee voted against the measure.

Under current state law, port terminals that cause trucks to wait – and idle – for more than 30 minutes can face fines. But under the new bill, SB761, those same terminals would face further penalties if they cause trucks to spend more than 60 total minutes while doing business with the terminal.

The Senate Transportation and Housing Committee voted 7-6 against the bill after a hearing April 5. However, the committee left the door open for the bill’s sponsor – Sen. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach – to bring it back before the committee; that could occur when the panel meets April 19.

However, an official with Lowenthal’s office said he was not certain whether the senator would ask for reconsideration.

“I don’t think we’ve decided either way,” Lowenthal aide Josh Tooker said. “The hearing is not till next Tuesday (April 19), so we have a little bit of time.”

If Lowenthal does bring the bill back, it will be considered by the same panel that rejected it. However, Tooker said he was not aware of any changes being planned for the bill before the April 19 committee meeting.

SB761 would change a number of requirements faced by ports in the state. For example, it would start the clock on the so-called 60-minute “turn time” from the moment a truck enters the first gate or queue at the terminal. It does not stop the clock until that truck leaves the exit gate.

It also requires the terminals to set up an appointment or scheduling system – something that was voluntary under previous law – and requires trucks and motor carriers that do business with the port to use those systems.

Lowenthal represents many residents near the sprawling Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, one of the largest ports in the nation. Several measures in the past few years – some of which have passed, and some which did not – have taken aim at diesel-related air pollution around the ports by placing more requirements on the port terminals, where long lines and waits have been common.

– By Mark H. Reddig, associate editor