California ports’ Clean Truck Program under way

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As part of a plan to take 16,000 dirty-diesel trucks off the road and slash port-related truck pollution by 80 percent, the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach on Wednesday, Feb. 18, began collecting Clean Truck Fees from cargo owners who use pre-2007 diesel trucks. The fees will raise funds to help finance the replacement of thousands of old, dirty trucks currently servicing the ports.

“Now that fee collection is implemented, we will set our sights on creating a 2009 Clean Truck Program to help bring more 2007-compliant or newer trucks into our program by the next dirty truck ban, which will come into effect January 1, 2010,” said Los Angeles Port Executive Director Geraldine Knatz. “These incentives have proven to be a quicker way to get clean trucks out on the road.”

Dirty-diesel trucks will pay a $35-per-TEU (20-foot Equivalent Unit, or 20-foot container) fee. Despite recent delays in fee collection, the Los Angeles port says it has been moving full speed ahead in helping trucking companies purchase clean trucks; more than 100 companies have applied to receive $20,000 for each qualifying truck they had put into service at the port by Jan. 15. The ports will continue to offer incentive programs to encourage trucking companies to switch to the greenest trucks on the market.

Beginning Oct. 1, 2008, the ports banned the most polluting trucks — 1988 and older rigs. It was the first in a series of bans pursued by both San Pedro Bay ports. On Jan. 1, 2010, the ports will ban 1993 and older trucks, and unretrofitted model year 1994 to 2003 trucks. By January 2012, all 2006-model year and older trucks will be banned from entering port container terminals.

Last year, the West Coast Marine Terminal Operator Agreement created a not-for-profit company, PortCheck, to collect the fees for the ports. The money collected will be transferred to the ports to provide financial assistance for the replacement of thousands of trucks during the next several years. Under the Clean Truck Program (CTP), the cargo owner is responsible for paying the fee, which will be payable by credit card or electronic funds transfer and must be paid before a container can enter or leave a terminal.

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In November, the ports filed with the Federal Maritime Commission their PortCheck agreement with marine terminal operators, who would develop and operate an online and electronic gate access system to collect the fee.

FMC currently is pursuing an injunction under section 6 of the Shipping Act against certain aspects of the CTP in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. FMC has determined the CTP is likely, by a reduction in competition, to result in an unreasonable reduction in transportation services and an unreasonable increase in transportation cost.

FMC said Wednesday, Feb. 11, that in light of the previously filed action targeting the most anticompetitive provisions of the CTP, it determined that it is unnecessary to separately enjoin operation of the PortCheck agreement and fee collection, thus allowing the ports to being collecting the fee as scheduled on Wednesday, Feb. 18. FMC also said it would require the parties to the PortCheck agreement to file special monitoring reports with FMC, which would allow the commission to closely monitor the ongoing operation of the CTP collection process to assess the fee’s impact on the San Pedro Bay drayage industry, and the American shippers and consumers served by that industry.

The American Trucking Associations on Dec. 19 filed its reply brief in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in its effort to secure an injunction against the enforcement of the ports’ concession plans. ATA’s litigation focuses on the ports’ requirement to force carriers to sign concessionaire agreements with the ports; the association argues that the concessions would impose a broad range of operational requirements that recreate a regulatory environment comparable to state intrastate economic regulation, which is federally preempted. ATA also says it is especially troubled by the Port of Los Angeles’ plan to ban independent contractors within five years.