Thursday, April 1, 2010

House Panel to Discuss Changes to Trucking Deregulation Language

The House of Representatives Transportation Subcommittee on Highways and Transit has set May 5 as the date for a hearing to discuss possible changes to a key portion of federal trucking deregulation legislation.

The panel plans to take testimony from proponents and opponents of language in the Federal Aviation Administration Act of 1994, or F4A, that grants federal supremacy on the regulation of "routes, rates, and service" related to interstate trucking and commerce.

Officials from the ports of Los Angeles, New York/New Jersey and Oakland have joined with a group of elected officials, labor organizations, and environmental groups to demand changes to the F4A language that would provide local government authorities with the power to set trucking and commerce regulations.

Opponents, including the trade group representing leaders of the rest of the nation's ports, argue that the changes would create a patchwork of local regulations like that that existed before trucking deregulation.

The challenge to the existing language of the F4A began with Los Angeles officials after the port lost a court injunction battle with the American Trucking Associations over the port's Clean Truck Program. The court, in granting the injunction against portions of the port's truck plan – including a requirement that all port drayage drivers be per-hour employees – cited language from the F4A that states that federal law preempts local law in the case of interstate commerce. The port and the ATA head back to court to argue the entire case on April 20.

Proponents of the F4A language change are pleading their case directly to the chair of the House panel, Rep. James L. Oberstar, D-Minn., and asking Oberstar to insert the change into a multi-year "must pass" surface transportation bill currently working through the House. This would eliminate the more difficult task of changing the F4A directly.

Oberstar has yet to weigh in publicly on the proposed F4A changes.