Ports of L.A., Long Beach eye labor-free plan to ban older trucks

| 10/26/2007

Officials for the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach will formally consider next week a new clean truck plan that would ban most trucks that currently operate in the ports. Absent from the new plan, however, are previous proposals supported by the Teamsters that called for all truck drivers to be company drivers and would have prevented most companies from entering the port.

Both ports’ officials announced Thursday, Oct. 25, that their governing commissions would consider a new clean truck program in meetings this week. The proposed plan would be implemented in three phases that would ban all trucks with pre-1989 engines by Oct. 2008, and would mandate retrofits on 1994 through 2003 truck engines by January 2010. By 2014 only trucks with engines that meet or exceed 2007 model year California emission standard standards would be allowed.

The plan would restrict port entry by Aug. 1, 2008, to trucks that have registered with the ports and are equipped with a RFID tag providing truck-specific information to port officials.

The Port of Long Beach released a statement saying the plan would “reduce port-related truck pollution by approximately 80 percent over a period of just over five years.”

“The proposed tariff moves our air quality goals forward next year with a progressive truck ban schedule that is not only consistent with the anticipated requirements proposed by the California Air Resources Board, but actually achieves even more emissions reductions in an accelerated timeframe,” said Geraldine Knatz, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles.

Officials with the Port of Los Angeles are scheduled to consider the plan at their commission meeting on Thursday, Nov. 1, while the Port of Long Beach plan is set to be consider on Monday, Oct. 29.

The proposed plans don’t address a previously proposed plan that banned all trucks not driven by employees of companies that were licensed concessionaires. The controversial plan was backed by the Teamsters Union, which has made recent efforts to boost membership at ports in L.A. and Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and in New Jersey.

Both ports were lobbied heavily by retailers and trade associations concerned about the proposed plan’s cost increases, port drivers and union officials wanting to organize employees and residents surrounding the ports concerned about heavy pollution from dirty, older drayage trucks and incoming ships that burn large amounts of sulfur-heavy oil.

OOIDA has expressed concerns that long haul truckers will get shut out of the twin ports and other ports throughout the country, and drivers could be forced to pay third-party drayage drivers at the port gates.

The proposed concessionaire system contained several provisions that appeared to give large companies an upper hand against owner-operators, including an application system that would rate applicants in part by financial assets and number of employees.

That plan also included a raising of container fees to raise hundreds of millions of dollars to replace trucks and older engines.

Port officials left the door open to later adding other pieces to the clean truck program.

“While we are still working on the broader Clean Trucks Program components, this tariff shows our commitment to advancing the air quality goals we set forth in the Clean Air Action Plan approved by both port boards last November,” Knatz said.

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer