SPECIAL REPORT: Federal Maritime Commission slows port truck ban?

| 9/12/2008

Friday, Sept. 12, 2008 – An environmental plan to restrict trucks entering the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles hasn’t been stopped by months of political arguments or a federal lawsuit. However, a low profile federal agency may at least delay the ports’ Clean Trucks Plan.

On Thursday, the Federal Maritime Commission voted 2-1 to request additional information about the implementation of the clean trucks plan. The request for information could delay the port plan from its scheduled Oct. 1 implementation – when it would have begun banning trucks with pre-1989 model year engines.

According to the trade publication American Shipper, Geraldine Knatz, Port of Los Angeles executive director, stated publicly Friday that the maritime commission’s request would have no effect on the port’s Oct. 1 date of implementation.

But that remains to be seen.

The maritime commission’s request could delay the port implementation, Florence Carr, director of the Bureau of Trade Analysis under the Federal Maritime Commission, told Land Line Friday. Whether the plan’s implementation is delayed depends on the amount of time the ports need to respond, Carr said.

“It just depends on however much time they need to respond to the questions,” Carr said.

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 and to meet a host of conditions.

Typically, the maritime commission deals more with maritime issues than with trucking, although the agency has the authority to protect U.S. shipping conditions.

A news release from the maritime commission stated “this action was being taken because (the commission) has serious concerns about potentially unreasonable increases in transportation costs or decreases in transportation services that may result from the Clean Trucks Plan.”

Commissioner Joseph Brennan, who cast the lone dissenting vote against asking for more information, issued a statement saying “the Commission is making a monumental mistake in delaying, yet again, the overall environmental plan that the cities of Los Angeles and Long Beach have developed to address serious health concerns and needed port expansion in the region.”

Brennan said he “believes that the FMC should show more deference in these circumstances to the public policy judgments of the elected officials of two major cities, without ignoring the agency’s statutory responsibilities under the Shipping Act.”

OOIDA officials spoke with Federal Maritime Commission in fall 2007, voicing concerns of long-haul truck drivers who need port access.

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer