Port bill advances in California; targets intermodal equipment fees

| 7/21/2005

A California Assembly panel has approved a bill intended to take some of the burden off truckers at the state’s seaports.

The Assembly’s Transportation Committee unanimously voted to advance the bill that would prohibit the owners of some intermodal equipment at ports in the state from charging truckers late fees.

SB45, sponsored by Sen. Richard Alarcon, D-Van Nuys, declares, “termination, suspension or restriction of equipment interchange rights without prior judicial action is contrary to the public policy of the state of California.”

It specifically would prohibit intermodal marine equipment providers or marine terminal operators from imposing per diem, detention or demurrage charges on intermodal motor carriers.

Under the bill, ports or terminals could not charge truckers the “late fees” if the terminal gate is closed; if the terminal chooses to divert the truck to a new destination without “proper notification,” which the bill defines as 48 hours; if the intermodal equipment is not in compliance; and in a number of other circumstances.

The bill has been sent to the full Assembly for further consideration.

Three other port-related efforts also are navigating through the Legislature.

SB760, sponsored by Sen. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, would impose a fee on every container passing through the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. The money would go for security, emissions reductions and congestion reduction. The final portion of the bill would move more cargo by rail.

SB848, sponsored by Sen. Joseph Dunn, D-Garden Grove, would extend to port owner-operators the right to organize and to collectively negotiate with port motor carriers regarding such matters as compensation and benefits.

AB1406, sponsored by Assemblywoman Betty Karnette, D-Long Beach, would require the Office of Homeland Security to report on methods to improve freight security at the state’s ports. The bill was amended in the Senate from requiring OHS to pay for port security.

SB848 has advanced from the Senate and is awaiting a vote before the full Assembly. SB760 and AB1406 passed their respective chambers and are now under review in the other houses appropriations panel.