Thursday, January 6, 2011

Four Groups File to Join ATA Appeals Case Over LA Port Truck Program

Four Groups File to Join ATA Appeals Case Over LA Port Truck Program
Four groups, including three major trade industry associations, asked a federal appeals court on Wednesday to join the American Trucking Associations' ongoing litigation over the Los Angeles port's trucking program.

The four groups are: the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation; the Intermodal Association of North America, or IANA; the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, or OOIDA; and the Harbor Trucking Association, or HTA, in a joint filing with the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence.

The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a legal aid non-profit that in this case is representing the interests of several truckers who work in the Southern California drayage industry.

The other three groups are well-known trade industry organizations representing wide swaths of the shipping, international trade and transportation industries.

IANA, one of North America's leading industry trade associations, represents the combined interests of the intermodal freight industry. IANA's membership roster of more than 900 corporate members includes railroads – Class I, short-line and regional; water carriers and stacktrain operators; port authorities; intermodal truckers and over-the-road highway carriers; intermodal marketing and logistics companies; and suppliers to the industry such as equipment manufacturers, intermodal leasing companies and consulting firms.

OOIDA, the largest driver-based trade group, represents the interests of nearly 160,000 independent owner-operators and professional driver members in all 50 states and Canada.

The Harbor Trucking Association, which represents more than 80 trucking firms which service the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, and the other groups each asked the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to allow the groups to join in support of an ATA appeal before the court as amicus curiae, or “friends of the court.”

The HTA – which is not connected to the ATA – and the other groups reiterated in their filing several of the key arguments that the ATA has maintained since the start of the litigation: only the federal government can set certain regulations on interstate commerce, not local port authorities as in the case of the truck program; and, the lower court erred legally in ruling in favor of the Los Angeles port.

Portions of the trucking program were implemented by the port in October 2008. However, several key components, including a requirement forcing all port-servicing trucking to hire per-hour employee drivers instead of per-load independent owner-operators, had been enjoined by the lower court while the ATA case was being heard.

District Court Judge Christina Snyder's Sept. 15, 2010, ruling in favor of the port dissolved the injunction, but nine days later she agreed to an ATA motion to keep the injunction in place on the employee-mandate while an appeal to her ruling was being heard by the Ninth Circuit.

Late last year, the Ninth Circuit Court approved an expedited time frame for a hearing, ordering the ATA to file their briefs no later than Dec. 28, 2010 and the port to file their arguments no later than January 31.

In their filing, HTA attorneys argue that the basis of the lower court ruling in favor of Los Angeles – that the port was exempt from federal laws because the port was operating as a market participant in the local drayage industry – was legally flawed and not supported by case law.

The HTA also argued that the truck program regulations, if fully implemented, would drastically reshape the local drayage industry, where more than 80 percent of all port-servicing drivers are currently independent owner-operators.

"These [truck program] regulations are devastating to the small businesses that work in the drayage industry," said the HTA filing. "Where Congress sought to encourage competition, these regulations seek to destroy it. Where Congress sought to reduce barriers to entry, these regulations seek instead to erect new barriers. Where Congress sought to drive down prices through efficient competition, these regulations seek instead to increase prices through reduced competition."

The HTA filing was prepared in conjunction with the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence.

As a “friend of the court” party to the suit, the HTA would not be allowed to argue as a direct party to the case, but can volunteer information on points of law under discussion or other aspects of the case to assist the court in reaching a decision.