Coalition says Los Angeles area ports ignored port overhaul plea

| 6/15/2007

A coalition of retailers and shippers say they proposed a restructuring of the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports aimed to reduce emissions from rail engines, ships and trucks that wouldn’t punish owner-operators or small trucking companies.

That proposal, however, hasn’t been publicly discussed as those ports’ governing bodies prepare to consider adopting a new operating system, possibly by early July.

The Waterfront Coalition is a Washington, DC-based organization of retailers, product suppliers, manufacturers and agricultural producers that rely on America’s oceanic ports.

Ezra Finkin, legislative director for the coalition, says his group’s proposal would call for a flat cargo fee to go toward replacing older trucks that work at the port, but wouldn’t exclude small trucking companies or owner-operators, as the port operators proposed.

The Waterfront Coalition’s proposal also would rely on emissions enforcement by the California Air Resources Board.

Finkin recently told Land Line that his group proposed its own remodeling of port operations in late March – two weeks before the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports unveiled their own conceptual ideas.

The coalition was surprised to see the ports come out with their own plan without any public discussion of the coalition’s proposed plan, Finkin said.

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters and several other labor groups make up the Coalition for Clean & Safe Ports, which submitted its own overhaul proposal requiring all trucks to be driven by company employees with union representation. That proposal weighted concessionaires on categories like driver recruiting and total value of assets.

“I think there were a lot of things in that truck plan that have nothing to do with achieving clean air,” Finkin told Land Line.

The Los Angeles and Long Beach ports unveiled a plan in early April to spend $200 million replacing older and higher polluting trucks with new ones that meet 2007 emissions standards. The replacements, however, would only extend to licensed concessionaires, and concessionaires wouldn’t include owner-operators.

Owner-operators whose trucks meet 2007 emissions standards would be allowed to enter the port until 2013, when all trucks allowed onto the port must be licenses concessionaires, port officials told Land Line in April.

Port of Los Angeles Spokesman Arley Baker told Land Line that he expected the commissions of each port to formally consider adopting the operations change by early July.

Overhauling port operations could lower shipping efficiencies and set precedent for other ports in the nation, Finkin said, adding that such actions would likely have drastic effects for retailers that rely on tight supply chain timing.

“By and large this industry is served by owner operators, by the number of trips they take to and from the port,” Finkin said. “(Retailers have) got a brand they have to protect – if you promise you’re selling something for a weekend sale and that product isn’t at the store by the weekend – you’ve got an issue.”

Finkin also said that ships and railroad engines pollute port air more than big rigs, but said the ports have moved to change truck operations before the other shipping modes.

“What this (the truck plan) has to do with clean air, I don’t know,” he said.

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer