Tuesday, March 2, 2010

LA Port, City Hall Officials Chime In on Ninth Circuit Truck Ruling

Port and City of Los Angeles officials offered their interpretations of last week's decision by the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on the port's truck re-regulation program, focusing on the court's refusal to enjoin further portions of the truck program as requested by plaintiff American Trucking Associations.

"We are very pleased that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld our concessions by denying the ATA’s request to enjoin the concession model used to enforce the Port of Los Angeles Clean Truck program," said port Executive Director Geraldine Knatz.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa also praised the ruling. "The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling to allow concession agreements to continue at the Port of Los Angeles is good news for all of us who live and work in Southern California."

The ATA, which represents more than 37,000 motor carriers nationwide, filed suit in federal court in July 2008 arguing that the access license system is preempted by federal laws that govern the routes, rates, and services of interstate commerce. The ports argued that they are exempt from federal preemption under a motor vehicle safety clause.

Last year, the Ninth Circuit court enjoined portions of the port's truck plan, essentially allowing the port to continue with a highly constrained version of the port's controversial access-licensing model, which the port calls "concession agreements." Under the truck plan as originally proposed, the port would issue access licenses to trucking firms in return for binding agreements from the trucking firms to port-defined labor, financial, security, and safety criteria.

The ATA returned to the Ninth Circuit asking the panel to expand the injunction to include all portions of the access-licensing model. Last week the panel refused to enjoin the entire access-licensing model, but did enjoin one further component, handing a small win to the ATA.

The truck program now heads to court on April 20 for a full trial.

Both Knatz and Villaraigosa said that City Hall and the port look forward to their day in court.

"We are hopeful that the trial court will uphold the full concession agreement to provide full accountability and sustainability of the Clean Truck Program in the future," said Villaraigosa.

The Ninth Circuit, in their ruling, clearly reiterated which components of the access-licensing model that could remain in effect at the port. These include: requiring that access license recipients be licensed motor carriers in good standing; requiring that access license recipients use only “permitted trucks;” mandating that motor carriers are solely responsible for their drivers and employees; requiring that motor carriers prepare a truck maintenance plan and holding motor carriers responsible for vehicle condition and safety; mandating that motor carriers keep records of driver enrollment in the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (“TWIC”) program; requiring that motor carriers ensure that each truck entering and leaving Port property is equipped with a means of Clean Trucks Program Compliance Verification; ensuring that motor carriers comply with federal, state, municipal, and port security laws; and requiring that motor carriers update and maintain accurate data in the port-operated drayage truck registry, access license registry, and driver registry and allowing Los Angeles port officials to inspect motor carriers’ property and records regarding compliance with the access license agreements. None of these items were previously injuncted and remain in effect at the Los Angeles port.

Los Angeles City Council member Janice Hahn, whose district covers the port, said that the Ninth Circuit decision was a good step, but did not go far enough.

"In order to succeed in reducing pollution and improving security at the port in the long term, we need to ensure that trucking companies, and not the drivers, are held accountable for operating and maintaining their trucks."

Hahn, along with port and City Hall officials, support a system that would require trucking firms to own all the trucks and drivers would work and be hired only as per-hour employees. Currently, more than 80 percent of the port's drivers work as per-load independent owner operators.

Port-sponsored studies have shown that port-generated diesel emissions are down double digits since the implementation of the truck plan in late 2008, though it has yet to be shown if the reductions are due to the truck plan or the reduction in overall truck traffic at the port due to the economic downturn.