As many as 400 truckers in big rigs clogged Southern California freeways Friday, before arriving in Downtown Los Angeles to blast their horns as they circled City Hall, all in protest of an impending ban by the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles of all trucks made before 1994.
The truckers, many of whom later rallied in front of City Hall on foot to express their ire at Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, called for an extension of the ban's Jan. 1, 2010 deadline, better funding for the replacement of trucks, and an investigation into the ports' Clean Trucks Program.
The ports' program, which seeks to dramatically cut diesel emissions from thousands of ports-servicing trucks by 2012, relies heavily on several scheduled bans of certain model year trucks to achieve the air quality goals. Trucks, trains, ships and yard handling equipment at the adjacent ports, known as the San Pedro port complex, have been identified as the largest single-point generator of certain air pollutants in the Los Angeles area, accounting for about 20 percent of the total diesel emissions for the Southern California basin.
Older trucks, according to the ports, produce much greater pollution than newer 2007-or-later model year trucks. The truck program started last October with a ban of more than 2,200 pre-1989 model year trucks. The impending ban on pre-1994 truck models also covers all 1994 to 2003 model year trucks that have not been retrofitted with pollution control devices.
Many of the protesting truck drivers, who operate as independent contractors servicing the ports, said that tens of millions in grant monies handled under the auspices of the truck program have found their way to large trucking companies and not to the individual drivers or small trucking firms which make up the largest percentage of ports-serving trucking companies.
The drivers said that the new ban could put many of them out of business when you consider than a retrofit costs upwards of $20,000 and a new truck costs more than $100,000.
While the truck program was jointly developed at its outset by the two ports, each have adopted differing language during the ramp up to implementation last year. Port of Los Angeles officials have stuck to version that calls for all drivers wishing to enter the port to drop their independent contractor status and work for trucking firms as hourly employees. The neighboring Port of Long Beach has not included any restrictions on employment status of drivers in its version of the program.
The American Trucking Associations, which filed suit against both ports’ programs late last year, recently settled with Long Beach officials, removing the Port of Long Beach from the ongoing litigation. The settlement removed several aspects of the Long Beach program to which the ATA took exception, while allowing the port to maintain environmental, safety and security control over which trucks enter the port's facilities.
The Port of Los Angeles is scheduled to face off against the ATA in a Los Angeles federal court in March 2010.