SPECIAL REPORT: Port terminals could face fines if they make trucks wait - and idle - in California

| 6/27/2003

An anti-idling law that went into effect this year in California means port terminal operators who make truckers wait to pick up loads – and therefore idle their trucks – will face fines starting July 1.

Truckers would not pay fines for idling under the law.

The law, passed last year as AB2650 and signed by the governor in September 2002, would require every marine terminal in California to operate in a way that keeps trucks from idling any more than 30 minutes while waiting to load or unload.

Marine terminal operators who try to divert trucks to freeways or staging areas away from the ports to avoid the law would face an additional fine. And the new law would also prohibit the terminals from passing the cost of the fines on to truck owners and operators. That would be a violation of nonvehicular air pollution control laws, according to a summary of the bill on the General Assembly’s Web site.

However, marine terminal operators that meet certain staffing requirements at their receiving and delivery gates would be exempt from some provisions of the bill.

The new anti-idling law, like all California laws, would normally take effect Jan. 1. However, Josh Tucker, a member of Lowenthal’s staff, said the state delayed implementation of fines because officials knew it would take time for ports and operators to install and work the bugs out of systems to manage truck traffic.

“We realized any terminal trying to put together an appointment or scheduling system was going to take a little bit of time so we said that if any terminal decided to choose that option, and look at an appointment or scheduling system basically they notified their district at the beginning of the year and then they’ll have six months to work it out.”

During that six months, no fines would be levied since any new system would have to be “tinkered with,” Tucker said.

“As far as I know, every terminal notified their district that they would be trying some sort of scheduling or appointment system, so there would be no fines till July 1,” he said.

Under the law, terminal operators could face a $250 fine for every truck left idling more than 30 minutes, The Journal of Commerce reported recently. Since some terminals handle roughly 2,000 gate moves each day, and many truckers wait an hour or even longer to pick up their loads, those fines could add up quickly for slow-moving terminals.

Truckers could see some of that fine money go into their pockets. Lowenthal’s office said in a statement that the law would create a new program called the California Port Community Grants. Under that program, money from marine terminal fines would create grants that would be given to truckdrivers to help them replace and retrofit diesel trucks that produce the worst emissions. Those trucks, according to the statement, are predominantly driven at the ports.

--by Mark H. Reddig, associate editor

Mark Reddig can be reached at mark_reddig@landlinemag.com.