ATA: Long Beach port’s clean trucks plan illegal

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The American Trucking Association said Thursday, March 6, that the “Clean Trucks” program at the Port of Long Beach in California is illegal. In the first salvo against the port program adopted last month, ATA filed a petition with the Federal Maritime Commission seeking significant changes in the program, the Associated Press reported.

The Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners voted Feb. 19 to approve key elements of the Clean Trucks Program that will replace and modernize the entire port trucking fleet to slash truck-related air pollution by 80 percent within four years. The commissioners voted unanimously to adopt a truck concession requirement that will allow only “clean” trucks to work at the port.

The concessions require Licensed Motor Carriers (LMCs) register their drivers and trucks with the port, and tag their vehicles with RFID devices so the port can monitor compliance. LMCs will be required to meet clean truck, security, maintenance and health insurance requirements. The port plans to announce details on registration soon.

In its petition, ATA argued that the purpose of federal deregulation of trucking in 1980 was to allow carriers mostly unrestricted access to routes and markets nationwide to encourage competition. Spokesman Curtis Whalen told the AP that the rule in the Long Beach Clean Trucks concession plan violates deregulation “and isn’t really needed to achieve clean trucks and clean air.”

The elements of the plan are key pieces of a sweeping program that has been adopted systematically through several Board votes. In November 2007, the Long Beach and Los Angeles Boards of Harbor Commissioners approved a ban on pre-1989 trucks beginning Oct. 1. By Jan. 1, 2010, only trucks built after 1993 will be allowed into port shipping terminals, and by Jan. 1, 2012, all trucks must meet 2007 federal emissions standards that make new trucks more than 80 percent less polluting than older trucks.

In December 2007, the Commissions approved a cargo fee to accelerate the replacement of the drayage fleet that serves the port; the fee will end when the fleet of drayage trucks meets Clean Air Action Plan (CAAP) requirements in about 2012. The port says it will use the funds to help drivers get new trucks and ensure that older trucks will be scrapped and taken out of circulation, rather than continue to work outside the ports.

The plan has not won over truck drivers concerned about the price of emissions control technology. Also, public health advocates and environmentalists are worried that Long Beach officials went ahead with their plan without the support of representatives of the neighboring Port of Los Angeles. Officials at the two ports disagree on a key issue; Los Angeles port officials would prefer trucking firms hire the independent drivers – an option backed by the Teamsters union and environmental groups, but one that Long Beach has rejected.