Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Los Angeles Port Tightens Clean Truck Regs to Punish Scofflaws and ‘Loopholers’

The governing board for the Port of Los Angeles is cracking the whip on scofflaws that have been circumventing clean truck rules in the port area and others that have been exploiting a loophole in the ports' truck program regulations.

The five-member Board of Harbor Commissioners on Thursday approved new penalties of up to a $1,000 and six months in jail for port-servicing drivers that transfer containers from compliant clean trucks to older and more polluting trucks within the port area. In addition, trucking firms found to be involved in such transfers, known as "dray-offs," could face a revocation of their concession agreement with the port and have all of their trucks barred from port service.

The clean truck program requires that all trucks servicing the port have a signed concession agreement with the port and only use 2004 or newer model year trucks. The program's regulations stiffen on Jan. 1, 2012, to only allow 2007 or newer trucks to service port facilities.

Using the dray-off technique allows trucking firms to move a greater number of containers with fewer clean trucks, which according to the port, defeats the emission-cutting concept of the truck program and puts fully-compliant truck firms at a disadvantage.

The new port regulation, which still requires Los Angeles City Council approval, only addresses dray-offs that occur within the port boundaries.

The port board also approved closing a loophole in the clean truck program regulations that was being exploited by a growing number of drivers. The clean truck program only set model year regulations on Class 8 trucks--mainly because there were only a handful of the smaller Class 7 rigs in the port at the time and these smaller trucks can not legally handle the weight of a fully loaded container.

However, the number of old Class 7 trucks calling at the port--some estimated to cost less than $5,000 compared to a new compliant $120,000 Class 8 rig--has exploded in recent days. The port estimates that the average age of the Class 7 recently brought into port service is about 12 years old, or roughly what the average age of a Class 8 truck in the port fleet was before the clean truck program began in October 2008. The newly-approved port regulation closes the loophole by applying the truck program model year restrictions to Class 7 trucks as well. Owners of Class 7 rigs have until July 1, 2011 to either upgrade their engines or purchase new compliant vehicles.

Some trucking firms had previously testified to the port board that while they wanted to remain compliant with the truck program rules, they were forced to begin using some of the smaller trucks simply to compete with those that had first brought in the Class 7 rigs.