Otherwise compliant driver learns day-pass a must at L.A. ports

By Charlie Morasch, Land Line contributing writer | 10/15/2013

Carl Benson first began working on trucks in the mid-1960s as a swamper connecting oil trucks to rigs in Kodiak, Alaska. He has driven loads into Prudhoe Bay, hauling freight down the same treacherous paths made famous in the reality television show “Ice Road Truckers.”

Benson, 67, an owner-operator and OOIDA life member from San Dimas, Calif., has seen it all.

But he isn’t 100 percent old school.

Living in California, Benson is well aware of emissions rules. He has signed up for available programs offered by the California Air Resources Board and his local air quality management district.

To stay ahead of the 2014 requirements enforced under CARB’s On Road, Truck and Bus Regulation, Benson traded in his serviceable 2001 Western Star for a 2010 Kenworth. The truck also meets the state’s Port Drayage Regulation.

“I’ve got a big old round sticker saying ‘clean air’ on the side of it,” Benson said. “I have a big green and silver sticker saying it qualifies for the drayage program. I have a Port of Seattle sticker, a Port of Tacoma sticker.”

Before last week, however, Benson hadn’t experienced the full implementation of the Clean Truck Programs at the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. After waiting in line to get into the Port of Long Beach Wednesday, Oct. 9, Benson learned something his freight’s shipper and broker never told him. If you’re delivering or picking up at either port, you must have either an annual drayage license or a $30 day pass that lasts 24 hours.

The day-pass system was implemented four years ago as a means for owner-operators to be able to make occasional port visits. Applicants are limited to three day passes annually.

For more information, or to apply for a day pass, click here.

The ports have an online system set up so truckers can order a day-pass within hours of their scheduled arrival. Unfortunately for Benson, the pass wouldn’t be ready in time for his scheduled container pick-up.

“That load would have paid me $1,400,” he said.

Though frustrated, Benson said he remained polite when dealing with port employees. Well, polite and a tad sarcastic.

“I feel like the wonderful people down at the harbor, the City of Long Beach, the Port of Long Beach and Los Angeles – they’re taking the liberty of digging a little deeper in your pocket every time you want to go there,” Benson told Land Line Magazine. “I was under the impression the ports were open to everyone, but I found out that isn’t true.”

Just before Benson hung up his phone, he paused to mention the natural beauty as he passed mountain ranges near Vail on his way to drop off a load at Denver. Snow was falling all around him, and he appreciated Colorado’s relatively limited regulation.

“It’s snowing like hell,” he said, “but the road is clear.”

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