ATA lawsuit against Port of Los Angeles set for April

| 3/2/2010

The Port of Los Angeles and the American Trucking Associations will do battle in a civil suit in federal court next month, following several recent court rulings related to the port’s truck drayage emissions program.

Last week, a panel of judges from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals announced they’d rejected ATA’s request to enjoin eight specific portions of the port’s concessionaire system in a temporary injunction already granted to ATA. The concessionaire system is part of the port’s Clean Truck Program.

The skirmish has been ongoing since 2007 and isn’t all about clean air, but rather who should pay for it.

In its plan, the port – backed by the Teamsters, environmentalists, and the city of LA – contends that the independent contractors who serve the ports can ill afford newer trucks, as required by the program. The plan views trucking companies as more capable of keeping drivers in newer trucks. Supporters also believe the motor carriers would be more accountable and more likely to be able to carry on the program in the future.

The port is also convinced its plan is best accomplished if the independent truckers at the ports become employees.

Predictably, ATA doesn’t like the idea of motor carriers picking up the bill and making independent contractors employees and therefore potential Teamster members.

Speaking specifically on this port plan, OOIDA had been concerned that its long-haul driver members who make occasional port visits would be shut out of the ports.

The city of LA stands firm that the Clean Trucks Program is worth fighting for. ATA spokesman Clayton Boyce said last week that Los Angeles has spent $8 million in legal bills fighting the ATA in court during the city government’s budget crisis.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa – formerly a labor organizer – lauded the 9th Circuit Court ruling in a prepared statement.

“We are hopeful that the trial court will uphold the full concession agreement to provide full accountability and sustainability of the Clean Truck Program in the future,” Villaraigosa said. 

Also last week, a judge rejected motions by both parties in a pre-trial hearing regarding ATA’s request of a permanent injunction.

The trial is scheduled to begin April 20.

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer