Tuesday, February 9, 2010

NRF-Led Coalition Urges DOT to Block F4A Changes

A confederation of 31 retail, shipping and business industry groups has urged the United States Department of Transportation in writing to oppose moves by several port, labor and environmental groups to change federal trucking de-regulation laws.

"While we strongly support efforts to improve air quality and port security in and around America's ports, the effort to undermine federal preemption of interstate commerce is an attempt to overturn losses in the federal courts restricting local regulation of truck drayage services," the National Retail Federation, writing on behalf of the other industry groups, said in the letter. "If successful, these efforts will not improve air quality or port security in and around the nation's ports, but will re-impose a fragmented, local patchwork regulatory structure on foreign and interstate commerce, contrary to the US Constitution and acts of Congress."

The National Retail Federation, writing on behalf of the other groups, urged DOT Secretary Ray LaHood to resist Congressional lobbying efforts by several ports including Los Angeles and New Jersey/New York to change the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act (F4A) of 1994, which give the federal government sole authority when it comes to motor carrier routes, rates and services. As part of the federal government's de-regulation of the trucking industry that began in the late 1970s, the F4A language was passed to prevent the creation of a patchwork of local regulations much like that which existed prior to de-regulation.

The national lobbying effort to change F4A was started by the Port of Los Angeles last year after several federal court decisions prevented port officials from imposing employee-only labor regulations on local drayage truckers. The regulations were part of a truck program that began development in 2006 as an effort to upgrade the drayage fleet and cut diesel emissions. Political intervention soon morphed the truck program from a clean air program into a social engineering effort that sought to completely transform the labor component of the local trucking industry and in doing so make it easier for drivers to be unionized. Two federal courts later determined that the port could not mandate such regulations, citing federal preemption of interstate commerce.

"The Port of Los Angeles, the National Resources Defense Council, and the [International Brotherhood of] Teamsters seek to expand the exceptions to federal preemption legislatively in order to accomplish by statute an objective that the Courts found to be currently unlawful," said the NRF letter. "In fact, the Court of Appeals recognized that federal preemption of interstate trucking services was designed to prevent a patchwork of burdensome state and local trucking rules as would be created by the Port of Los Angeles’ concession plan."

Proponents of the lobbying effort, such as the NRDC, the Teamsters and the ports, believe that the sixteen-year-old F4A is "archaic" and "outdated" legislation and should be changed to allow local authorities to set environmental, labor, and safety/security regulation for locally-servicing trucks.