Port of L.A. set to vote on truck plan Thursday

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The Port of Los Angeles on Thursday, March 20, is scheduled to vote on a truck replacement program that requires motor carriers to hire employee drivers, marking a break from its sister port in Long Beach, the Los Angeles Business Journal reported Tuesday, March 18.

Citing the negative health impacts caused by more than 16,000 diesel trucks in the harbor, officials unveiled a final proposal for their long-delayed plan they say will be sustainable in the long term and improve conditions for low-paid port drivers.

“The trucking system serving our ports is broken and cannot be fixed without a major transformation,” said Geraldine Knatz, Los Angeles port executive director. “If we don’t create a responsible and financially viable port trucking system, a decade from now we’ll be throwing billions of dollars at this chronic problem once again.”

The ports have said the plan, which would replace virtually all of the short-haul diesel trucks in the harbor with cleaner-burning models, would reduce diesel truck emissions by 80 percent. The L.A. port’s version of the plan, however, includes a major — but not unexpected — break from Long Beach, which recently adopted a plan that will allow motor carriers to continue to use independent drivers. The trucking industry has resisted the employee mandate, saying it would raise its costs and open the door for unionization.

The American Trucking Associations also has said it will bring a lawsuit if either port attempted to force motor carriers to hire employees. ATA argues 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 recently said 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.”

Long Beach officials cited the legal threats when eschewing the provision, saying a court fight would delay the ultimate goal of cleaning the air. However, a recent study commissioned by Los Angeles from Boston Consulting Group concluded an employee-based plan likely would raise shipping costs but would be more sustainable in the long run, the Business Journal reported.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a strong proponent of the employee-based plan, lauded the L.A. port for moving forward. “L.A. is committed to a Clean Truck Program that will clean and green our port for the long haul – ensuring that Southern Californians are breathing cleaner air for generations to come,” Villaraigosa said. “These recommendations pave the way toward less pollution and clear skies, and I urge the harbor commission to back this proposal and set this region on a course toward a greener, more sustainable future.”