Thursday, February 25, 2010

Background On the ATA Lawsuit Against the SoCal Ports

The Southern California ports' trucking plans began as a single jointly-developed plan in 2007 which sought to cut ports-generated diesel truck emissions by up to 80 percent by 2012.

The original plan called for the ports to implement progressively more restrictive bans on older model trucks until only 2007 or newer trucks were operating in the two ports. However, the two plans quickly morphed into a trucking re-regulation plan that sought to use an access-licensing scheme to limit which trucking firms could and could not operate in the ports. This access-licensing scheme would require all trucking firms wishing to do business in the port to meet certain ports-defined criteria including financial, labor and safety issues.

On June 30, 2008 the American Trucking Associations filed in US District Court, Central Division, for a preliminary injunction blocking implementation of the port’s mandatory access license scheme under the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization, or FAAA, Act of 1994 and the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution. U.S. District court judge Christina Snyder refused to grant the ATA-requested injunction, ruling that while the access license agreements “related to a price, route, or service” of motor carriers which would generally render them preempted under the FAAA Act, she believed that the ATA was unlikely to succeed on the merits because the concession agreements likely fell under the FAAA Act’s motor vehicle safety exception and therefore ATA had not established a proper basis to be granted a preliminary injunction.

The FAAA Act provides that "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."

The ATA appealed the lower court ruling to the Ninth Circuit, which reversed the lower court ruling, remanded the case back to the lower court, and instructed Judge Snyder that many provisions of the access license agreements were likely preempted by the FAAA Act.

Once the case returned, the lower court followed the Appeals Court’s order and determined that some of the access license agreement provisions were likely preempted while others were not. Those components of the access license scheme that were injuncted by Judge Snyder included: the independent operator phase-out, hiring preferences, financial disclosure requirement, health insurance requirement, compliance with truck routes and parking restrictions, mandatory access license fees, and Clean Truck Tariff program

The ATA again appealed the lower court ruling to the Ninth Circuit, arguing that Judge Snyder, in issuing the limited preliminary injunction (1) erred in concluding several provisions were not preempted by the FAAA Act; and, (2) erred in concluding that Port of Los Angeles has authority to preclude motor carriers from entering the Port for failing to comply with the access license agreements; and (3) abused its discretion by not enjoining enforcement of the access license agreements in their entirety.

On Wednesday, Feb. 24, the Ninth Circuit panel concluded that each item that Judge Snyder blocked should remain injucted and added an additional item should also be covered under the injunction. This portion of the access license agreements called for each truck to carry a placard with a phone number on it. The appeals panel ruled that the federal government reserves the right to place placards on the truck.

On Thursday, Feb. 25, Judge Snyder denied motions from both sides calling for summary judgment and set April 20 as the trial date.