Tuesday, August 3, 2010

House Bill Introduced to Amend FMCA Federal Preemption

New York Democratic Congressman Jerrold Nadler has introduced a bill which seeks to change language in the Federal Motor Carrier Act allowing local port authorities to set environmental standards above federal standards and thus preempt federal de-regulation laws regarding trucking.

Co-sponsored by 57 other representatives, the bill would amend the FMCA to "allow ports to set the standards needed to replace diesel trucks with clean diesel and alternative energy vehicles in order to reduce pollution," according to a statement released by Rep. Nadler.

Proponents of the Port of Los Angeles' Clean Trucks Program have been lobbying for the changes to federal law since a federal judge held up portions of the port's trucking plan citing the federal preemption language in the FMCA. The Port of Los Angeles has spent nearly $350,000 lobbying to get the FMCA language changed.

In addition to setting environmental standards, the Los Angeles plan includes requirements that all truck drivers serving the port be employees of trucking firms. A federal judge issued an injunction against this portion of the port plan, holding that the employee-only provision violated FMCA language which gives the federal government authority over interstate trucking.

The Los Angeles truck plan, in place since Oct. 2008, has been implemented without the disputed provisions. A final decision on the legality of these provisions is expected from the same federal judge in the near future.

Currently, more than 80 percent of all drivers serving the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles are independent owner-operators.

Opponents of the Los Angeles plan have raised the specter that such changes to federal law would create a situation where truckers are required to obtain multiple licenses and permits to operate in each local authority surrounding ports--akin to pre-deregulation trucks having to display a multitude of state license plates.

Since 2008, the Los Angeles plan--in conjunction with a similar plan in Long Beach (with no employee provision)--has resulted in the elimination of more than 80 percent of diesel truck emissions from the two ports' drayage fleet, according to the two ports. It should be noted that both ports also saw dramatic declines in cargo traffic during that time which also accounts for the decrease in emissions.