DOT’s administrator cautions L.A., Long Beach ports on changes

| 10/30/2007

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s maritime administration encouraged officials at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to create emissions standards for drayage trucks – but the agency tempered that enthusiasm with words of caution.

“I am most concerned that the environmental benefits of reducing truck-source emissions not be lost or diluted by needless litigation or inadvertent impairment of the flow of the Nation’s commerce,” stated Sean Connaughton, maritime administrator, in a letter to the executive directors of both ports.

Long Beach and Los Angeles had been considering a plan that would ban all trucks from the ports unless they were driven by an employee of a licensed concessionaire trucking company. That plan has been supplanted recently, however, by another plan that would require all trucks entering the port to have an RFID chip and to report certain information to the ports.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association representatives met with the Federal Maritime Commission on Oct. 19. The Missouri-based trucking organization expressed concerns about how some of the proposed changes could restrict long-haul drivers who make stops in ports and might restrict interstate commerce.

In one portion of Connaughton’s letter, he specifically mentioned his concerns about any plan that could affect the large number of independently owned trucking businesses.

“There has been considerable public speculation that the ports are considering measures that would go well beyond the immediate laudable objective of effecting near term reductions of emissions from trucks, particularly from those providing drayage services,” Connaughton wrote. “This critically important link in the interstate and international transport chain is characterized by a very large number of small independently owned and operated enterprises.”

Connaughton urged the port directors to compromise with the truck plan to ensure that emissions are reduced while freight flows “remain unimpeded.”

“Some proposed regulatory elements (i.e., those that apply to independent owner-operators and thereby restrict market competition, or the collection of fees for projects outside of port jurisdiction) may be beyond the power of local legal authority and result in litigation,” he wrote.

“These concerns are complicated by other challenges already on the horizon including renegotiation of the International Longshore and Warehouse Workers Union contract and the implementation of the Transportation Worker Identification Credential Program by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration.”

Joe Rajkovacz, OOIDA’s regulatory affairs specialist, met with agency staffers from the California Air Resources Board Tuesday, Oct. 30, at the Port of Los Angeles to discuss CARB’s proposed port plan.

CARB’s plan would eliminate pre-1993 trucks by Dec. 31, 2009 and would require all engine model years 1993 through 2004 to be retrofitted to meet California and federal emissions standards. By Dec. 31, 2013, all trucks would have to meet 2007 model year engine standards.

Also pending are the proposed plans from each port in Long Beach and Los Angeles, of which there have been multiple drafts and much political maneuvering.

Karen Caesar, a spokeswoman for CARB, told Land Line Monday, Oct. 29, that if CARB approves its proposed port truck regulation, the ports must at least comply with it.

“Any of these ports can have regulations of their own that are more stringent than ours, but they cannot be less stringent than ours,” Caesar said.

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer