U.S. Supreme Court hears Los Angeles port truck case

By Charlie Morasch, Land Line contributing writer | Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The highest court in the land heard arguments Tuesday about portions of the most restrictive port truck emissions program in the United States.

The United States Supreme Court heard arguments in ATA v. Los Angeles Tuesday. A decision in the case is expected to be announced before the current court’s term ends in June.

In 2008, the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach each approved Clean Truck Programs that banned pre-1989 trucks from entering their ports in 2009. In January 2010, trucks with 1993 model year engines and older were banned. Since 2012, only trucks meeting 2007 model year diesel engine emissions standards have been allowed onto the ports.

The program at the Port of Los Angeles included specific bans on drivers who weren’t company employees and included expensive taxi-style “concessionaire” fees. Those provisions prompted a July 2008 lawsuit by the American Trucking Associations to overturn several portions of the program.

ATA has argued that local regulation of trucks conflicts with the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994. The lawsuit has bounced between U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, and the U.S. Court of Appeals before being heard by the Supreme Court Tuesday.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has filed as an intervener in the lawsuit.

In January, the Supreme Court said it will hear arguments concerning whether municipal governments may conflict with federally protected preemption of state and local laws. The court also said it will examine whether a required concession program imposes requirements “related to a price, route, or service of any motor carrier,” and whether permitting a municipal government entity to bar federally licensed motor carriers from a port operates as a partial suspension of the motor carriers’ federal registration.

Congressional laws approved in 1980 and 1994 underscore Congress’ desire that trucking be shaped by “the competitive market rather than government regulations,” ATA Deputy Chief Richard Pianka said in a news release. “If these rules are allowed to stand, it would clear the way for a patchwork of regulations that would lead to unreasonable burdens on the movement of goods.”

ATA’s case was argued by Daniel Lerman with the Robins Russell law firm of Washington D.C. The Solicitor General’s office, representing the federal government, joined ATA and supporters in urging the “Court to hold that the Port’s requirements are impermissibly in conflict with the Congressional policy articulated in the FAAAA.”

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