Ports of L.A., Long Beach respond to ATA suit

By Charlie Morasch, Land Line staff writer | 8/25/2008

The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach filed a 60-page response to the American Trucking Association’s lawsuit – capping a week chock-full of port emissions news.

The ATA lawsuit filed in the United States District Court for the Central District of California claims federal regulations protecting interstate commerce prevent the ports from requiring that truckers be licensed concessionaires in order to enter the ports.

In response to ATA’s claims, port attorneys contend that the ports are landlords issuing proprietary rules rather than regulations, and that being landlords negates ATA’s argument that trucks are protected under federal regulations governing interstate commerce.

“ATA, supported by declarations from just three of its trucker members, has brought this action to stop the clean truck program and, specifically, to enjoin the concession contract programs, which are to take effect on Oct. 1, 2008,” the filing states.

“In arguing that the ports’ concession contract programs are pre-empted by section 14501 (U.S. Title 49, Sec. 14501, which gives federal protection of interstate commerce) ATA surprisingly says not a word about the well-established market participant doctrine.

“As we will show, the concession contract aspect of the clean trucks program does not constitute ‘regulation’ as that concept is understood under the market participant doctrine but instead reflects the proprietary action of the Ports in their capacity as commercial enterprises and landlords.”

Officials with the ports approved clean truck programs that will require trucks to meet 2007 engine emissions standards by December 2012, although that implementation may be delayed because of legal and regulatory action.

The programs also phase in requirements that all trucks entering the ports be licensed concessionaires – a status designated by the ports that allows certain trucking companies access into the ports.

The ATA’s suit seeks an injunction to prevent the ports from beginning the concessionaire portion of the clean trucks program.

Both sides are scheduled to present their arguments before a federal judge on Sept. 8.

The ATA appears to be at odds with at least two major carriers with memberships in the association who signed up this week to be concessionaires at the ports.

The Port of Los Angeles announced Thursday that Phoenix-based Knight Transportation and Swift Transportation Inc., signed letters of intent to be concessionaires at the port. American Shipper magazine reported the companies stand to receive $20 million in incentives from the ports for bringing an estimated 2,000 emission-compliant trucks to the port.

And lastly, but importantly for owner operators, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association appears to have scored a victory within the clean trucks program by allowing for occasional visits by long-haul truck drivers.

OOIDA’s Joe Rajkovacz, Rick Craig, Todd Spencer and Laura O’Neill have worked with Port of Los Angeles officials for months to secure a day pass system for long-haul truckers that will give them access to the ports for occasional visits.

Officials from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach announced in mid-August a 12-trip-per-year day pass system for long-haul trucks. The announcement came at the California Highway Patrol-sponsored Commercial Vehicle Safety Summit in California, attended by Rajkovacz.

“It’s apparent that both ports are working together to institute the day-pass system,” Rajkovacz said. “The Association’s efforts to get a day pass for long haul truckers is bearing some fruit.”

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer

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