Port-operation bills advance in California

| 7/7/2006

Several efforts are moving forward in the California Legislature that would alter operations at the state’s seaports.

And while the legislation focuses on seaports, including the massive Los Angeles-Long Beach complex, it could affect the livelihoods of thousands of truckers who haul cargo containers in and out of the ports that dot the California coastline.

A pair of bills offered by Sen. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, seeks to park certain large trucks, limit port growth and speed up “turn times.” The package has advanced from the Senate to the Assembly for further consideration.

The first bill, SB764, would require the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach reduce the amount of pollution produced. The twin ports complex would be required to reduce emissions 30 percent below the level of emissions produced in 2001. The ports would be required to meet the roll back on emissions by 2010.

Another bill, SB1829, would require marine terminals to operate in such a manner that doesn’t cause trucks to wait – and idle – for more than 30 minutes outside terminal gates. Once inside, it also would prohibit making truckers wait more than 30 minutes for a single transaction. Unloading and loading must be completed in 60 minutes.

Marine terminals found to be in violation, would face a $250 fine, per occurrence. Any attempt by owners or operators of terminals to avoid or circumvent these requirements would result in a $750 fine.

One other bill offered by Lowenthal, however, has been rejected by the Assembly Transportation Committee. The bill, SB762, would have allowed harbor agencies to develop permitting systems for trucks serving the ports, in an effort to promote such things as security and keeping higher-polluting trucks out. The Senate previously approved it.

Lowenthal, chairman of the Committee on Environmental Quality, said the package of port bills “promote air quality” and set clearly defined goals and incentives to achieve them.

The Long Beach lawmaker is not alone in his efforts. Other state lawmakers have offered measures targeting various aspects of port operations.

SB1213, 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 also would extend to those drivers key benefits that many employees in the state have, such as the ability to withhold their services on a collective basis – in essence, the right to legally strike – and to be free from any coercion by port motor carriers regarding those rights. Owner-operators would have an anti-trust exemption.

AB1101, sponsored by Assemblywoman Jenny Oropeza, D-Carson, would require local air districts to develop diesel reduction measures and plans to reduce emissions. Areas affected would include airports, seaports and rail yards.

Both bills have advanced out of their originating chamber and are under further consideration in the other house.