Thursday, May 6, 2010

SoCal Ports' Truck Plans Face Congress: Truck Subsidies and Lawsuits

During Wednesday testimony before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, officials from the two Southern California ports touched on how the ports subsidized new trucks under their respective truck plans and litigation over the plan.

John Holmes, deputy executive director of the Port of Los Angeles, said that through his port's investment of $60 million in incentives to trucking firms, the truck plan has encouraged trucking firms to deploy newer truck models that meet the port's emissions standards.

"We believe that asset-based trucking is a sustainable model that will provide companies the ability to replace the current trucks without public money in coming years," said Holmes.

Chris Lytle, deputy executive director of the Port of Long Beach, said that Long Beach has subsidized the purchase of or retrofit nearly 900 trucks through a $52 million investment of Long Beach port funds.

All told, trucking firms servicing the two ports have spent more than $650 million of their own money to replace older trucks with newer models that meet the ports' standards.

In turning to the legal cases that have led to portions of the Los Angeles plan being injuncted in federal court, Holmes called existing federal law on the matter "ambiguous."

The Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994 (F4A) – which Holmes referred to – in fact states quite clearly that "a State, political subdivision of a State, or political authority of 2 or more States may not enact or enforce a law, regulation, or other provision having the force and effect of law related to a price, route, or service of any motor carrier or any motor private carrier, broker, or freight forwarder with respect to the transportation of property."

Holmes went on to say that without "clarification" of the F4A, the Los Angeles truck program will not function as intended.

"Without the [truck] program intact, the ability to achieve and sustain the program's goals over the long-term are threatened," said Holmes.

Holmes also suggested a tie between the truck program and the port's market position as the busiest container port in the Western Hemisphere.

"We need the emissions reductions made possible by the truck program to maintain our competitiveness and our role as one of the largest hubs in our national transportation system," said Holmes. "Unless the emissions reductions obtained by the port are sustained, the port will be forced to delay future expansion of our facilities and the jobs that such expansion brings with it."