Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Long Beach Follows LA Port In Closing Clean Truck Loopholes

The governing board for the Port of Long Beach on Monday approved new drayage regulations to counter scofflaws that have been skirting clean truck rules in the port area, mirroring similar regulations adopted by the Port of Los Angeles less than three weeks ago.

The five-member Long Beach board voted to pass along applicable container fees to cargo owners for any port-servicing drivers caught transferring containers from compliant clean trucks to older and more polluting trucks within the port area – a process known as dray-offs. The fees are $35 per twenty-foot container and $70 per forty-foot container. Shifting the fees to the beneficial cargo owners is seen by port officials as a way to encourage cargo owners to discourage trucking firms from engaging in dray-offs.

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 regulations 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. Estimates suggest as many as 550 Class 7 trucks, representing 2 to 3 percent of all truck moves at both ports, are working in the two neighboring ports' joint drayage fleet.

Officials from the Port of Los Angeles, who approved similar restrictions on Class 7 trucks in late December, 2010, estimated that the average age of a Class 7 truck 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 Long Beach 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.