Tuesday, March 16, 2010

NY/NJ Port Chief Joins Calls to Overturn Trucking Deregulation Law

Port Authority of New York and New Jersey executive director Chris Ward has joined a handful of port and locally elected officials calling for amendments to a federal law that would allow local authorities to bypass federal trucking deregulation laws and regulate interstate trucking from the local level.

Ward joins the mayors of Los Angeles, New York and Oakland, in conjunction with a coalition of environmental, social justice and labor groups, in calling for changes to the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994, or F4A. Contained within the F4A is language clearly defining that the federal government has sole regulatory control of "rates, routes, and services" regarding interstate commerce, including trucking. Federal court rulings have determined that even port-servicing drayage trucks are engaged in interstate commerce.

The call for changes to the F4A began earlier this year with the Port of Los Angeles, following a federal appellate court determination that the port's truck emission reduction program contained port-proposed local regulations that were preempted by federal interstate commerce law. The court used the F4A federal preemption language as a basis for this determination.

The Los Angeles truck plan (as well as a similar plan at the neighboring Port of Long Beach) seeks to reduce diesel emissions from port-servicing trucks by banning older trucks and forcing drivers and/or trucking firms to purchase 2007 or newer model trucks. The main enforcement of the plan is an access-licensing scheme that requires trucking firms to agree to port-defined criteria if they wish to continue servicing the port. A key component of the Los Angeles access license criteria was a call for all drivers to be trucking firm employees. Long Beach port officials chose not to include such labor criteria.

Ward and other proponents of the Los Angeles truck plan claim that per-load independent truck drivers do not make enough money to pay for the newer $100,000-plus rigs.

Currently, nearly 80 percent of the drivers at the LA/LB port complex are independent owner-operators. Under labor law, independent owner-operators cannot be organized, unlike trucking firm per-hour employees. Attempts over the past decade to organize independent port truckers by various unions have met with little to no interest.

Ward and other proponents of the F4A change have cited a 2009 Rutgers University study that claims that truck drivers in the NY/NJ port make on average $11 an hour, a level they claim is insufficient to purchase the newer and vastly cleaner-burning trucks. The author of the study claims the Rutgers NY/NJ study is consistent with other academic studies of the LA/LB port complex. However, the two most widely cited academic studies of the LA/LB drayage fleet – conducted in 2004 and 2007 by California State University, Long Beach researchers – found that the average LA/LB drayage drivers made $20 per hour and $25 per hour, respectively.

In addition, since the non-injuncted portions of the Los Angeles truck plan were implemented in late-2008, the port claims it has managed to accomplish all of its environmental goals regarding the reduction of port-generated diesel truck emissions – ahead of schedule. The adjacent Port of Long Beach, which abandoned the court injuncted portions of its version of the truck plan, has also reported meeting its truck-related emission reductions ahead of schedule. These successes also include the purchase and deployment of more than 6,000 of the 2007 or newer trucks by drivers or trucking firms – all without the implementation of an employee-only mandate.

Opponents of the change to F4A language include the majority of the trucking, retail and shipping industry. Last month, the American Association of Port Authorities – a trade group representing the management of every major port in the nation – joined a previous move by the port and city of Long Beach in coming out publicly against lobbying for the proposed F4A changes.