Tuesday, July 5, 2011

SoCal Ports Close Class 7 Truck Loophole

New drayage regulations aimed at countering scofflaws skirting clean truck rules in the two Southern California ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles took effect July 1, effectively banning about 500 older Class 7 trucks from servicing the two ports.

In January, the five-member Long Beach port commission approved closing a loophole in the port's clean truck program – a set of several regulatory bans which by the end of this year will all but eliminate pre-2007 model year trucks from servicing the port – that was being exploited by a growing number of drivers using Class 7 trucks. The original 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 cannot 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 each compared to a new compliant $120,000 Class 8 rig – exploded in the latter part of 2010. Estimates in early 2011 suggested that as many as 550 Class 7 trucks, representing 2 to 3 percent of all truck moves at both ports, were working in the Long Beach and neighboring Los Angeles ports' collective drayage fleet.

“Although the Class 7 rigs did not represent a big percentage of the drayage truck fleet there was still a matter of fairness to the trucking industry partners who got on board early and invested millions to buy cleaner, less polluting trucks,” Long Beach Port Executive Director Richard Steinke said.

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 the average age of a Class 8 truck in the port fleet prior to the implementation of the two ports' individual clean truck programs in October 2008.

The two ports' new regulations close the loophole by applying the truck program model year restrictions to Class 7 trucks as well. Owners of Class 7 rigs had until July 1, 2011 to either upgrade their engines to meet 2007 model year standards or purchase new compliant vehicles.

In January, some trucking firms testified to the port board that while the firms 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.