Port of Long Beach approves restrictive truck measures

By Charlie Morasch, Land Line staff writer | 2/20/2008

The Port of Long Beach approved a complicated new concessionaire licensing program on Tuesday, Feb. 19, that’s intended to cut pollution but likely will shut large numbers of long-haul owner-operators out of the port.

The final phase of the three-part clean truck program allows independent owner-operators and company drivers port access if they meet a series of conditions, including:

  • Pay $250 application fee and $100 per truck each year;
  • Tag trucks with radio frequency identification devices;
  • Agree to port-approved scheduled maintenance;
  • Agree to anti-terrorism cab inspection; and
  • Gain port approval as a licensed concessionaire.

The clean truck concessionaire plan has the potential to slow freight movement and hurt owner-operators throughout the nation if other ports imitate Long Beach, OOIDA officials have warned.

License or permit fees burdening out-of-state long-haulers are unconstitutional and unnecessarily regulate interstate trucking, OOIDA President Jim Johnston told port officials and the mayor of Los Angeles in a letter.

He also pointed out that out-of-state truckers aren’t the problem. He referred to a California Air Resources Board study that showed California-based trucks are twice as likely to be 15 years or older as out-of-state trucks. Local port drivers make 80 percent of port calls, one port official told OOIDA.

The clean truck program faced political pressure from L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa – who reportedly wanted both ports to adopt a plan requiring all truck drivers to be company employees.

The Los Angeles Times reported on Tuesday, Feb. 19, that Villaraigosa accepted $500,000 in campaign funds in December from a Washington, DC-based labor coalition with ties to the Teamsters Union.

Los Angeles commissioners are considering an employee-only driver plan promoted by the Teamsters.

Whether either port’s plans will be challenged legally remains unclear. Several trade organizations, however, have raised multiple legal concerns. The Federal Maritime Commission recently met with OOIDA officials in an effort to determine whether the new restrictions would interfere with interstate commerce.

Curtis Whalen, an attorney working for the ATA’s Intermodal Motor Carrier’s Conference, who in early February criticized both ports for interfering with interstate commerce, signaled that his employers were happy with Long Beach’s new concessionaire plan.

Two previous portions of the plan were adopted last fall and winter.

In November 2007, the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach approved a ban on trucks with pre-1989 engines effective by October 2008. The ports also approved a requirement that all trucks meet 2007 engine emission standards by 2012. The ports later approved $35 container fees per 20-foot equivalent to help raise more than $2 billion for the purchase of new trucks and retrofits overseen by the ports.

Tuesday’s harbor commission meeting lasted for nearly six hours in front of a packed auditorium. Outside, Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello, was scheduled to participate in a rally supporting the employee-only concessionaire plan.

Long Beach port officials trumpeted the plan’s approval as “a victory for clean air,” and seemed relieved they had completed nearly a year’s work.

Owner-operators and OOIDA members, however, wonder why the concessionaire program is truly necessary. If the stated goal is cleaning up dirty air, aren’t the newest, lowest-emission trucks good enough to come into the port without forking over the fees for a license?

“Obviously, this isn’t about clean air,” said Joe Rajkovacz, OOIDA regulatory affairs specialist. “Nothing in this concessionaire agreement is about clean air.”

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