Judge gives preliminary approval to L.A. clean trucks plan

| 9/9/2008

A plan to limit trucks entering the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach appears to be rolling to its Oct. 1 implementation with fewer obstacles.

U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder issued a preliminary decision not to grant an injunction to stop Clean Trucks Programs aimed at cutting truck emissions and improving economic opportunities for the estimated 16,000 drayage drivers who frequent the ports daily.

Snyder reportedly said she would likely allow the Clean Trucks Programs to be implemented, and said she would make a decision by Thursday, Sept. 11.

Officials with the twin ports approved similar clean truck programs aimed at cutting emissions from the estimated 16,000 older trucks that frequent the ports daily. In addition to requirements phasing out older trucks, the plans require trucks entering the ports to be licensed concessionaires meeting a host of conditions.

The ATA sued in July, saying the Clean Trucks Plans’ concessionaire limits violated federal statutes that protect interstate commerce.

“The balance of hardships and the public interest tip decidedly in favor of denying the injunction,” Snyder said, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Port officials announced in August that a day-pass system would be available for long-haulers to access the ports 12 times annually. Later, the ports added a fee of $100 – per trip.

OOIDA has filed comments, met with port leaders and worked to protect the rights of long-haul drivers to make infrequent visits to the ports.

Joe Rajkovacz, OOIDA regulatory affairs specialist, aired the Association’s concerns about the Clean Trucks Program before the Port of Los Angeles Harbor Commission in March. Rajkovacz was assured then by Port Executive Director Geraldine Knatz that the port would have a day-pass alternative for long-haul truck drivers.

The ports recently confirmed they plan to implement a day-pass system limited to 12 visits per year for long-haul trucks. The day-passes, however, would cost $100 per visit, an amount OOIDA officials have characterized as “unjustified and overly expensive.”

“The court did not issue an injunction at this time and seemed more convinced by port security arguments than the larger interstate commerce clause violation arguments,” said Jim Johnston, president and CEO of OOIDA.

“The lack of an injunction stopping the imposition of the concession requirements of both ports reinforces the importance of having an alternative means for long-haul truckers to enter the ports. Otherwise, long-haul truckers would have been subjected to the same requirements contained in the Agreements such as banning owner-operators and paying much higher fees.

“OOIDA has worked to ensure long-haul truckers, who could be owner-operators, would not be captured by those agreements. In-lieu of the onerous requirements contained in the concession agreements, instituting a ‘Day Pass’ system seemed to be a far more favorable outcome for those truckers who occasionally visit the ports. However, the 12 trip limit and $100 fee per trip are not the preferred outcome and very likely will create insurmountable hurdles for national goods movement. Many long-haul truckers are unlikely to ever comply with the concession agreements as currently adopted. The Association will continue to work with port and city officials to modify the existing proposal.”

The Clean Trucks Programs at both ports are scheduled to ban trucks with pre-1989 model year engines on Oct. 1.

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer