California advances port bill; targets intermodal equipment fees

| 9/2/2005

The California Legislature has approved a measure intended to take some of the burden off truckers at the state’s seaports.

Assembly lawmakers voted 73-2 to advance the bill that would prohibit the owners of some intermodal equipment at ports in the state from charging truckers late fees. Senators followed up by giving their final approval before sending it to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s desk.

The bill – SB45 – declares, “termination, suspension or restriction of equipment interchange rights without prior judicial action is contrary to the public policy of the state of California.”

Sponsored by Sen. Richard Alarcon, D-Van Nuys, 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.

Another port-related effort in the Legislature also remains active.

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. It has advanced from the Assembly and is awaiting final approval by senators before heading to the governor.

Two other efforts, however, didn’t make it out of committees prior to the Aug. 26 deadline to advance.

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

AB1406, sponsored by Assemblywoman Betty Karnette, D-Long Beach, would have required 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.

SB760 and AB1406 passed their respective chambers and were awaiting votes in the other houses appropriations panel.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor