California ports to delay collecting Clean Truck Fee

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The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach announced Friday, Nov. 14, that collection of the Clean Truck Fee will not begin today, Nov. 17, as previously scheduled. The ports say more time is needed to complete ongoing discussions between the ports, the Federal Maritime Commission staff and West Coast marine terminal operators.

The ports say their leadership is working to resolve the issues, since any delays prevent the acceleration of the Clean Truck Program implementation and threaten the investment already made by many trucking companies.

“We are very concerned about the number of licensed motor carriers – most of which are small, local companies – that have already made significant capital investments in clean trucks that will help us reach our emissions objective sooner rather than later,” says Geraldine Knatz, Port of Los Angeles executive director. “Any delay in the fee collection process slows our progress on reducing emissions and places those companies at a competitive disadvantage in this already tough economic climate. So we are doing our best to expedite the implementation of the fee.”

The ports say FMC staff and West Coast marine terminal operators are working to resolve remaining procedural issues, and that the terminals also are working to finalize the CTP’s automated gate administration and process for collecting fees that will be used to finance the replacement of as many as 10,000 older trucks during the next three years. The automated gate access system and fee collection system originally were scheduled to commence operation today, Nov. 17, but with this delay, terminal operators will revert back to the temporary sticker system launched Oct. 1 to determine which trucks to allow into port terminals.

Meanwhile, the American Trucking Associations is continuing its challenge of the ports’ CTP with some high-powered help: the U.S. Department of Justice. In an Oct. 20 filing with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the Justice Department addressed the question of whether the regulation of motor carrier operations at the ports – which includes exclusive use of employee drivers and rules out participation by owner-operators – violates federal law that preempts state and local laws that impact motor carrier rates, routes and services.

With the courts refusing to block the concession agreements initially, 598 companies had signed up as of Oct. 1 to participate in the concession program. The district court held that carriers would not suffer irreparable harm because they could seek damages if they later win on the merits. But ATA argues in its appeal that securing individual damages would be difficult, if not impossible, and that forcing companies to either accept the illegal terms or stop doing business at the ports is itself irreparable harm.

ATA isn’t challenging other elements of the CTP that went into effect Oct. 1. The program immediately banned trucks built before 1989 – more than 10 percent of port trucks as of Oct. 1 – and requires that all trucks meet 2007 emissions standards by 2012.

FMC on Oct. 29 determined by a 2-1 vote that implementation of certain portions of the CTP by the ports are likely, by a reduction in competition, to produce an unreasonable increase in transportation cost or unreasonable reduction in service. The commission authorized staff to file a complaint with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia pursuant to section 6(h) of the Shipping Act of 1984, to enjoin aspects of FMC Agreement No. 201170, including concession requirements that mandate exclusive use of employee drivers.