Tuesday, November 24, 2009

LA Port Director Blasts ATA

Port of Los Angeles executive director Geraldine Knatz blasted critics of the port's decision to continue defending its version of the Southern California ports trucking program in a federal lawsuit brought by the American Trucking Associations.

Knatz's attack came in an open letter on the port's website in which she mocks the trucking association as being shortsighted.

The port's trucking program, developed jointly with the neighboring Port of Long Beach, seeks to cut diesel truck emissions by up to 80 by 2012. The Los Angeles plan, details of which were dictated to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa by International Brotherhood of Teamsters president James Hoffa, Jr., during a 2006 meeting, has been derided by the trucking industry as an attempt to unionize the port-servicing truckers.

The ATA filed sued in federal court to block certain non-environmental portions of the plan last year, eventually winning an injunction in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The ATA argued in court that the concession model adopted in the truck plan– where trucking firms would be required to meet ports-defined criteria to receive an access license to port property and in the case of Los Angeles be required to hire drivers only as employees– violated federal interstate commerce laws. Long Beach has since settled with the ATA and been removed from the litigation.

In her letter, Knatz defends the injuncted concession agreements, calling them "our enforceable agreements to hold trucking companies responsible for the trucks and drivers they dispatch to our port."

She slams the ATA for putting the port in a position as watchdog of the trucks.
"If problems arise with any of these thousands of contracted drivers or their trucks," she said, "the ATA wants the port to chase down those individual truckers– an enforcement measure that is neither practical nor realistic."

It is worth mentioning that the port already tracked down all of the drivers to give each of them encoded radio frequency identification devices, a task that neither overwhelmed or overburdened the port.

Knatz goes on to reiterate the position of former port commission president S. David Freeman who said during the development of the truck plan that the port only wanted to deal with trucking firms that had "deep pockets." In fact, the vast majority of trucking firms at the ports are the exact opposite– small firms with one to five drivers. To date at least 500 trucking firms that existed before the truck program began last October are no longer servicing the port.

Knatz also mentions slams the ATA for supporting the environmental goals of the truck program, a position the ATA has repeated numerous times, and then in the same breath slams the ATA members for taking ten's of millions in port offered incentives and grants to bring their fleets up to the ports environmental standards.

It is worth noting that by the port's own numbers there are approximately 4,000 new cleaner-burning trucks brought in to the drayage fleet since the truck program took effect.

With new trucks costing upwards of $100,000, this suggests that the industry has spent $400 million on the new trucks servicing the ports, while the port has contributed less than half of 1 percent of these funds.

Knatz concluded her letter by stating that the port would continue to defend against the ATA suit, which is scheduled to go before a federal judge in March.

"The Port of Los Angeles’ Clean Truck Program wasn’t designed to be a quick win and a one-shot deal," she said, "but rather a long-term solution for ensuring that our port trucking system will be environmentally clean, financially self-reliant and continually upgraded. And that’s a goal worth fighting for."