Trucking bills advance, die in California

| 8/29/2006

As state lawmakers prepare to wrap up their work for the year Thursday, Aug. 31, several efforts that would have implications for the trucking industry are nearing passage. Meanwhile, a handful of related efforts have died.

The Senate voted to send a bill to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger that would give owner-operators whose trucks service ports in California the right to collectively bargain. Assembly lawmakers already approved the bill.

Sponsored by Sen. Joseph Dunn, D-Garden Grove, the bill – SB1213 – would allow port owner-operators 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.

Another bill awaiting the governor’s signature would add California to a national safety compliance database that monitors interstate truckers’ safety compliance.

Sponsored by Assemblyman Roger Niello, R-Fair Oaks, the measure would allow the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles access to the registration information for out-of-state truckers doing business in the state.

Niello said the goal of the program is that law enforcement would have the same information for interstate carriers as they have for intrastate carriers.

The bill – AB2736 – would also stagger registration renewals instead of the current end-of-year registration renewal process.

An effort still awaiting final passage in the Senate is focused on air quality.

Sponsored by Assemblywoman Jenny Oropeza, D-Carson, the bill would require local air districts to develop diesel reduction measures and plans to reduce emissions. Areas affected would include 10 airports, five seaports and 25 rail yards.

If approved by senators the bill – AB1101 – would head back to the Assembly for approval of changes. Any actions on the bill must be complete by the Thursday deadline to move to Schwarzenegger’s desk.

Among the legislation affecting truckers that failed to advance to their respective chamber floors prior to deadlines this past week are a pair of bills that focused on seaports, including the massive Los Angeles-Long Beach complex.

Sponsored by Sen. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, the bills sought to park certain large trucks, limit port growth and speed up “turn times.”

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

Another bill, SB1829, would have required 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 have prohibited 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 have faced a $250 fine, per occurrence. Any attempt by owners or operators of terminals to avoid or circumvent these requirements would have resulted in a $750 fine.

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

One other failed effort was intended to aid truckers.

Sponsored by Assemblywoman Jenny Oropeza, D-Carson, the bill would have established a revolving fund loan program to provide funding for truck parking space electrification and anti-idling truck cab technologies.

The measure called for financing the installation of electrification facilities that would have enabled large trucks “to use plug-in electricity to power their in-cab needs rather than using main engine or auxiliary diesel powered units,” Oropeza wrote.

According to a legislative analysis, the bill would also have aided compliance with the California Air Resources Board’s heavy-duty vehicle idling emission reduction requirements. It was also consistent with the mandate to reduce particulate emissions from heavy-duty diesel trucks.

Oropeza’s bill – AB2647 – remained in the Senate Appropriations Committee at the deadline for passage to the Senate floor. The Assembly previously approved it.

The bills that failed passage during the current two-year session can be reintroduced in the session that begins in December.