Tuesday, May 18, 2010

ATA Lawsuit Against LA Port Truck Plan in Hands of Judge

The more-than-two-year court battle between the Port of Los Angeles and the American Trucking Associations over details of a port-designed drayage fleet modernization program is now in the hands of a federal judge.

The port and the ATA filed final arguments in the court case Friday following nearly two weeks of testimony in early May before Superior Court Judge Christina Snyder. A final ruling on the case is expected within the next several weeks.

While the port truck plan began in 2007 as an effort to modernize the more than 19,000-vehicle-strong drayage fleet serving both the Long Beach and Los Angeles ports, the ATA has argued that the Los Angeles plan includes components that violate federal interstate commerce laws. While not opposed to the clean-air portions of the truck plan, the ATA sued in late 2007 to stop implementation of the non-environmental aspects of the plan, including a component that would force trucking firms servicing the ports to hire only per-hour employee drivers and bar per-load independent owner-operators which make up more than 80 percent of the local drayage drivers.

The two ports implemented their truck program on October 1, 2008, albeit without the non-environmental components being litigated by the ATA.

At the heart of the ATA lawsuit, which originally included the Port of Long Beach, is whether the two local port authorities have the power to set regulations that supersede federal interstate commerce laws. Long Beach port officials, which never included the employee-only mandate in their version of the truck plan, eventually modified their plan to remove most of the non-environmental components and reached a court-approved settlement with the ATA to be removed from the lawsuit.

The ATA, which represents more than 37,000 trucking firms nationwide, eventually won a court injunction against the Los Angeles truck program that blocked most of the non-environmental components from being implemented.

Since the implementation of the truck program, which used a progressive ban on older trucks which removed the majority of the gross-polluters from the local drayage fleet, both ports claim that the environmental goals of the program – a nearly 80 percent drop in diesel truck emissions – are on track to be met well ahead of schedule.

Los Angeles official want Judge Snyder to allow full implementation of its truck plan, including the non-environmental components, while the ATA is seeking to have the non-environmental components permanently enjoined.