Twelve trucking companies from the Oakland, CA, area lost a bid for emergency relief from daily fines of $100 to $200 that shippers could impose when truckers fail to deliver or return port containers.
Normally, truckers have about five days to return shipper-owned containers and trailers. Most do so, but the recent port shutdown made it impossible. In addition, many truckers still cannot deliver containers on time, due to long delays at backed-up terminals.
In a ruling this week, Alameda Superior Court Judge James Richman said there is no immediate problem. He denied a temporary restraining order against the fines, but scheduled another hearing next week to discuss the case, the Alameda Times-Star reports. So far, no fines have been imposed.
However, trucking companies are worried that imposition of the fines could put them out of business. The issue is whether shippers can fine trucking companies for not delivering or picking up containers, even though the ports were closed due to a lockout.
Sam Delich, an attorney representing the shippers, told the newspaper that truckers can avoid fines by invoking a clause exempting them in case of delays including acts of God, war and strikes.
Meanwhile, the California Trucking Association has begun a campaign to nullify the fines by asking Gov. Gray Davis to declare a state of emergency at the state's ports. Davis has not acted on the request.