ATA submits final brief in ports’ concession plan challenge

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The American Trucking Associations, with the support of its Intermodal Motor Carriers Conference, on Friday, Aug. 29, filed its legal reply in the U.S. District Court in California to the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach’s defense of its concession plans, part of the ports’ Clean Truck Program set to take effect Oct. 1.

ATA’s brief concludes the process leading up to the court’s Sept. 8 hearing on ATA’s challenge. ATA believes the concession programs unlawfully re-regulate the port trucking industry to the detriment of motor carriers, shippers, businesses and consumers that depend on the products that are handled at those ports.

ATA asserts in its brief that the ports are reshaping the port drayage market and undercutting the ability of smaller motor carriers to compete in the market by utilizing subsidies to entice national motor carriers to operate under what ATA considers a costly and “draconian” regulatory system. The port concession plans structure the market by state regulation rather than competition, driving up cargo costs that quickly will translate to higher prices for consumers, ATA argues.

ATA also believes under the concession plans there will be less money for truck retirement subsidy programs designed to meet port environmental goals. ATA’s lawsuit will have no effect on the port actions that actually will clean the air. ATA supports the ports’ bans on older, polluting trucks, the time schedule for replacing them, and the funding programs to speed replacement of the trucks.

“The Port of Los Angeles’ further intrusion into the competitive structure of the drayage market makes the ATA lawsuit even more important and illustrates precisely the type of disruption of trucking services in the economy that Congress found so inefficient and disruptive,” says Bill Graves, ATA president and chief executive officer. “Creating an artificial, noncompetitive market with highly inflated costs and prices hinders our national competitive ability and sets a dangerous precedent.”

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ATA on July 28 challenged the port concession plans as approved by the Cities of Los Angeles and Long Beach and their harbor commissions. The plans will limit access to the ports to only those trucking companies that have entered into concession contracts approved by the port program administrator.

ATA believes the concession plans impose a broad range of operational requirements that create a regulatory environment very similar to state intrastate economic regulation. The ports have acknowledged that these intrusive regulatory systems will result in far fewer trucking companies being able to service the ports, reducing competition.

Port officials, in their brief submitted Aug. 20, argued that ATA’s requested injunction is without legal basis for three reasons:

  • First, the statute that ATA relies upon does not apply to the special tidelands property on which the ports are located. The U.S. Supreme Court previously has decided that the tidelands were granted to California directly under the U.S. Constitution and subsequently granted to the Cities. Therefore, absent explicit congressional intent — which is not present in the federal statute relied upon by the ATA — a federal statute will not interfere with the ports’ rights to manage and control these sovereign lands as they see fit.
  • Second, the statute does not apply to actions taken by the ports as landholders and as “commercial enterprises