Long Beach port board OKs new container fee to pay for clean truck plan

| 12/18/2007

In the latest of a recent flurry of port emission rules, the Port of Long Beach’s governing body voted Monday, Dec. 17, to impose a $35 fee for every 20 feet of container length.

Port officials plan to use the fee to purchase $1.6 billion of new trucks, truck engines and retrofits in order to clean up one of California’s dirtiest shipping ports. The Port of Los Angeles is scheduled to adopt an identical plan at its Harbor Commission meeting Thursday, Dec. 20.

“Today’s vote will help ensure that, in a short time, only the cleanest trucks will operate at the ports,” said Mario Cordero, president of the Harbor Commission, according to a port-issued statement.

In November, the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach approved clean truck programs that ban pre-1989 trucks by the fall of 2008. The new regs will ban all trucks that don’t meet 2007 emission standards by 2012.

Also, in early December, the California Air Resources Board approved its own ban on older trucks. It begins phasing in on Dec. 31, 2009, and will ban by Dec. 31, 2013, all trucks that don’t meet 2007 emission standards.

OOIDA leaders have met with officials from the twin ports at L.A./Long Beach to express concerns about a Teamsters-backed amendment to the clean truck program that would ban truck drivers who weren’t company employees. That plan also would limit companies allowed into the ports to a specific list of licensed concessionaires

The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are scheduled to consider those additional measures in either January or February 2008, a Port of Los Angeles spokesman recently confirmed to Land Line.

Joe Rajkovacz, an OOIDA regulatory affairs specialist, also has spoken with officials at the Federal Maritime Commission regarding the port plans.

The Federal Maritime Commission falls under the jurisdiction of the Transportation Department and regulates a variety of international shipping processes. The agency has more power to regulate when more than one port adopts identical policies, and when the flow of interstate commerce may be affected by local port regulations.

During an October meeting with the officials from the Maritime Commission, Rajkovacz conveyed OOIDA’s position that owner-operators should not be burdened with a port truck registry or be blocked from having access to the ports.

If the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach bar most truckers, it could create an expensive, inefficient system. Owner-operators without port access would have to stop and pay a driver with access to take a container inside, Rajkovacz said.

Nevertheless, port officials seem ready to roll full steam ahead. “The next step will be to work with the trucking industry and other stakeholders to coordinate a smooth transition to a cleaner truck fleet,” Cordero said in the news release.

– by Charlie Morasch, staff writer