Thursday, October 22, 2009

Farrell Out as Top Tacoma Port Exec

In what is being labeled by the Port of Tacoma governing board as a "transition" of power, port Executive Director Tim Farrell will step down at the end of the year. The decision brings to a close weeks of speculation about Farrell's future at the port, a future brought into question by the recent cancellation of a major container terminal development project at the port.

Farrell called for a closed door meeting two weeks ago to discuss "a transition in power," shortly after Farrell's announcement that a 168-acre container terminal project at Tacoma under development for ocean carrier NYK Line was being cancelled. The reasons for the cancellation of the project– under development for several years and scheduled for completion in 2012– were cited as unforeseen increases in projected costs and a drop in port revenue. Updated estimates of the project predicted a total bill $400 million higher than the $800 million original estimate for the terminal.

NYK and the port subsequently signed a deal that will bring the ocean carrier to an existing terminal at Tacoma by 2012.

A nearly 10-year veteran of the port, Farrell stepped into the top executive slot in 2004. He will leave the port with a nearly $250,000 wage, benefit, and compensation package. The 43-year-old Farrell will also be eligible for a pension from the port when he turns 65.

The commission hopes to have a replacement executive director in place by early next year following a national search.

The port's current Deputy Executive Director John Wolfe will serve as interim executive director during the search period.

Long Beach Port Exec Slams NRDC Criticism

Port of Long Beach Executive Director Richard Steinke on Wednesday issued a public statement slamming critics of a decision by port officials earlier this week to settle industry legal challenges against the port's Clean Truck Program.

"The recent settlement of a legal challenge to the Port of Long Beach’s Clean Trucks Program is good news, not only for the port, but also for the cause of clean air," said Steinke.

"Why? Because the lawsuit was a potential roadblock. The settlement, however, clears the way for the port and the trucking industry to move forward, together, with a program that has been highly successful in reducing air pollution."

Steinke said that despite the port feeling that the legal settlement is a positive step, "we’re facing criticism from one of the nation’s largest environmental groups, the Natural Resources Defense Council, which says we’re abandoning our environmental goals by settling this lawsuit. That is simply false."

According to Steinke, on Jan. 1, 2010, the port will be nearly two years ahead of schedule with the truck program.

Steinke points out that the NRDC praised the truck program in a press release less than a month ago when the program celebrated its one-year anniversary of implementation.

"The NRDC’s real objection to our program [now] has nothing to do with clean air. By aligning itself with the Teamsters, who have been very public about their campaign to unionize port truckers nationwide, the NRDC is pursuing an agenda beyond air quality," said Steinke. Steinke also reiterated several points made by Long Beach Harbor Commissioners over the past year, that in essence, a main goal of the truck program was clean air.

"Now, as before, our top priority is achieving cleaner air," said Steinke. "But we’re determined to do it in a way that does not compromise the trucking industry’s ability to move cargo. By allowing both employee drivers and independent owner-operators in our program, we’re letting the industry determine how it can best achieve our environmental standards."

The adjacent ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles developed the truck program jointly in 2007 and early 2008 as a way of cutting diesel emissions from more than 19,000 drayage trucks that serviced the two ports in 2007. In 2008, both ports began to split ways on the plan, with Long Beach officials adopting a plan that did not include hiring language. Officials at the port of Los Angeles, at the prompting of LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, instead adopted a plan that attempted to define who could and could not drive a truck in to the port.

The LA plan wanted to eliminate per-load independent owner-operators that made up more than 80 percent of the drivers in the fleet. The US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals later injuncted the non-environmental portions of both ports' version of the truck plan.

"We don’t have any objection to employee drivers," said Steinke. "In crafting the program, we simply decided to give the industry a choice. Under our plan, both larger firms and small business owners have the right to operate. We can accept differences of opinion on that issue – but we won’t accept the NRDC’s false criticism that the ATA settlement is somehow compromising our environmental goals."

New Rules and Deadline for Colonet Port Bidders

The Mexican government's Ministry of Communications and Transport, or SCT, has released revised bidding rules for the West Coat port development proposed to be located at Punta Colonet about 150 miles south of the California/Mexico border.

The new bidding rules allow the participation of "potential bidders" who are not currently listed as part of the bidding team rime but may be consulted during the bidding process.

SCT also set a new deadline of November 3, 2009 for potential bidders to submit packages.

The project has undergone several revisions in the past several years, moving from an envisioned megaport that would rival the Long Beach and Los Angeles port complex, to last month's most recent downscaling which now envisions the proposed port as a 1 million TEU per year port.

Several consortiums have expressed interest in the project, which will also see the development of a double-tracked rail line from Punta Colonet to the U.S. southern mainlines.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Long Beach Port, ATA Reach Truck Program Settlement

Officials at the Port of Long Beach and the American Trucking Associations have approved a negotiated settlement that will end the use of taxi-like concessionaire agreements in the port’s 13-month old Clean Truck Program.

The concession agreements under the jointly developed Los Angeles/Long Beach truck program required motor carriers wishing to continuing providing drayage service to the port to sign a business agreement with the port to retain access to port terminals. The concession agreements also required that motor carriers provided certain information deemed by the port as necessary to comply with federal, state and local safety, security and environmental regulations.

The LB/ATA settlement will replace the concession agreements with a Registration and Agreement process that will still require the motor carriers to provide full information on drayage vehicles to the port-operated Drayage Truck Registry and to equip each truck with a radio frequency identification device (or other such device) to allow the port to monitor and control drayage truck entry to port facilities.

Truckers must also certify to the port that all trucks entering the port comply with all safety, security and environmental regulations—including those defined by the port in the Clean Truck Program. Motor carriers will also be responsible for ensuring that all drivers possess both a valid California Drivers license and a federal Transportation Worker Identification Card, and that adequate insurance is carried.

The settlement also allows the port to inspect trucks for safety, security, and emissions violations while on port property, including the privately operated terminals.

The settlement still allows the port to bar any motor carrier, truck or driver not meeting the terms of the settlement.

However, the settlement eliminated numerous contentious aspects of the concession agreements, notably the ability under the concession for the port to deny trucking firms that otherwise met all concession criteria. Also eliminated under the new settlement were criteria regarding the financial health of applying trucking firms, off-port parking requirements, and any kind of hiring preferences.

“We have always strongly supported the environmental objectives of the Port and supports strict compliance with and adherence to all safety and security laws and regulations,” said ATA President and CEO Bill Graves. “We never disagreed with their objectives, only with certain provisions of the Concession Agreements which we believed were unnecessary for the accomplishment of those objectives.”

The settlement comes after nearly 13 months of legal battles between the ATA-led coalition of industry groups and the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles over portions of the truck program including the concession agreement. The settlement is expected to end litigation against Long Beach’s version of the truck program, but the ATA was quick to point out that it will continue to pursue litigation against the neighboring Los Angeles port.

Harbor Commission President Nick Sramek said, “Under the new registration system, the Port of Long Beach will have the tools to strictly monitor and enforce its Clean Trucks Program and the Program’s truck emission reductions. It will also be positioned to enforce fully all of its security and safety related regulations.”

The settlement now clears the way for the ATA-led coalition to focus it litigation solely on the Los Angeles port version of the truck program, including a concession agreement criteria requiring trucking firms to hire per-hour employees and not per-load independent owner operators. The case is expected to begin in a Los Angeles Superior Court in December.

Los Angeles Port Increases Lobbying Effort Against Federal Trucking Regulation

While Long Beach port officials last week worked behind the scenes to hammer out a settlement with the American Trucking Associations and others regarding contentious portions of the LA/LB ports’ Clean Truck Program, Los Angeles port officials were voting to increase lobbying efforts to change federal trucking deregulation laws to allow local port authorities to regulate truckers serving US ports.

Last week, Los Angeles port commissioners agreed to add another $55,000 to the port’s contract with Washington, DC-based lobbying firm, The Gephardt Group. Headed by former House of Representatives Majority Leader Dick Gephardt, the firm was hired by the port earlier this year to lobby for changes to federal laws regarding federal primacy over trucking industry regulation. The port is seeking to change federal laws that trucking industry groups have already used in federal court to obtain an injunction against portions of the Los Angeles port’s version of the Clean Trucking Program. The new funds would bring the port’s total contract with The Gephardt Group, which lasts through the end of January, 2010, to just over $205,000.

In a letter to Los Angeles port officials in August, a group of 25 national and regional trade and transportation groups opposed the port’s moves to lobby for change to the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act (F4A).

“We strongly oppose the efforts of the [LA] port to support changing longstanding federal law, the F4A, to include a provision within the Clean Truck Plan that has nothing to do with reducing truck emissions,” said the letter. “We urge the port to cease its efforts in support of proposals to Congress to amend the F4A, and instead to work with its customers to address the real issues that face the port today.”

This week, officials at the Long Beach port announced that they had reached an agreement with the American Trucking Associations that is expected to result in Long Beach being removed from ongoing litigation over the 13-month-old Clean Truck Program.

NYC, Newark Mayors Join LA Port in Fight Against Trucking Deregulation

The mayors of the nation’s second largest port complex have joined with Los Angeles and Oakland officials in a lobbying effort to rescind federal deregulation of interstate trucking.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Newark, N.J. Mayor Cory Booker on Sunday jointly announced their support of the LA port’s Clean Truck Program and called on Congress “to support legislation that will empower ports to implement the LA Clean Truck Program.”

The New York/New Jersey port complex is the second busiest in the nation behind the Long Beach and Los Angeles complex.

Bloomberg and Booker join Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, who last week in calling for changes to the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994, or F4A, to allow local governmental authorities, such as port authorities, to regulate interstate trucking. Detractors of the F4A, which provides that the federal government has authority over interstate trucking, refer to the 1994 legislation as “obsolete” and “arcane.”

The F4A states in part, “a State, political subdivision of a State, or political authority of two or more States may not enact or enforce a law, regulation, or other provision having the force and effect of law related to a price, route, or service of any motor carrier.”

Portions of the Port of Los Angeles Clean Truck Program required that drayage trucking firms servicing the port hire per-hour employee drivers instead of per-load independent owner-operators who represent more than 80 percent of the LA port drayage drivers. This employee mandate was injuncted by a federal court in part on the basis of the F4A language that gives authority for regulation of interstate trucking to the federal government. Previous legal cases have found that containerized cargo is considered interstate commerce.

The Clean Truck Program, enacted 13-months ago by the adjacent ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, was developed jointly by the two ports but approved in two differing versions. The Long Beach port version had no employee mandate. This week, Long Beach port officials reached a settlement with the American Trucking Associations that is expected to remove the Long Beach port from ongoing litigation over the truck program. The ATA plans to continue legal action against the Los Angeles port.

Oakland Drayage Fleet Retrofits on Schedule

A plan by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District to retrofit 800 drayage trucks serving the Port of Oakland with diesel-emission capturing devices is expected to be complete by the end of the year, according to agency officials.

The retrofit devices, part of a combined $22 million subsidy program funded by the air quality agency, the US Environmental Agency, and the port, are claimed by the BAAQMD to cut diesel emissions from the port’s drayage trucks by up to 85 percent. The combined funding, which will help truckers and trucking firms to offset some of the cost of the retrofit devices, will also be used to provide area motor carriers with partial offsets for the purchase of about 170 new trucks in the port drayage fleet.

The subsidy program follows last week’s approval by the Oakland port commission to ban pre-1994 model year trucks from servicing the port after Jan. 1, 2010. As part of the trucking restrictions, the port will also require that all 1994 to 2003 model year trucks—which make up nearly 80 percent of the 2,000-strong drayage fleet—must either be replaced with newer trucks or be retrofitted with diesel emission-capturing devices.